Moe Thu Aung, 2014 winner
Moe Thu Aung was the first journalist hired in February 2012 for RFA’s new Myanmar Service office and was almost always the first at the scene of breaking news.
In Rakhine State where he went to report on ethnic violence, he and bureau chief Kyaw Kyaw Aung were pursued by a mob with knives. Undeterred, he sneaked through a police cordon that night while the city of Sittwe was under lockdown in order to video the victims of the violence. At other conflicts, he took exclusive video of mosques being burned. And when he returned to Rakhine 2013 to report on the refugees, a policeman grabbed him at gunpoint and threatened to kill him. He was RFA’s most resourceful person in Burma and one who knowingly put himself in mortal danger for the advancement of press freedom and the public interests of the Burmese people.
Aung’s resourcefulness and dedication during the 22-months he worked at RFA were invaluable in the network’s efforts to establish its budding operations in his country. As a reporter, Aung covered pivotal events from a local perspective, including armed conflicts among Burma’s ethnic groups, the elections, political reform, and President Obama’s historic 2012 visit.
BBG Governors McCue, Meehan, and Ashe and the Open Technology Fund (OTF) technical team were privileged to get to know Aung as he helped expand the work of USIB, strengthen relations with progressive-minded people in the Burmese government, perform the first baseline review of technology and censorship in Burma and do extensive fieldwork on ethnographical factors impacting both our programming work and our internet freedom work. Aung answered every idea with opportunity.
On November 25, 2013, after a five-day battle, Aung died tragically after succumbing to injuries resulting from a traffic accident in Mandalay while on assignment for RFA. He was only 23.