Uyhgur Service, 2019 winner
Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service was the first to report on the implementation of a vast, high-tech security state in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and the mass arbitrary detentions there sweeping up the mostly Muslim Uyghur population and other ethnic groups in the region in early 2017, when much of the world was unaware of the situation. Since then, RFA Uyghur has diligently and tirelessly continued to break key stories that bring to light major events, aspects, and developments of a massive humanitarian crisis. This crisis has undoubtedly achieved global notice and notoriety, in large part because of RFA’s Uyghur Service’s courageous journalism, despite risks and threats. Many of the staff, if not all, have China-based relatives detained in these facilities and, in at least six cases, in retribution by Chinese authorities for these staff members’ work at RFA. However, the service refuses to shirk its responsibility of being the only independent, non-Chinese government sanctioned Uyghur-language news service in the world. It embraces its role in being a trustworthy conduit of in-depth, investigative journalism – not just for the Uyghur population in China, but fellow journalistic peers that cite and confirm RFA’s reports, and by extension, the world. For a network entrusted with the mission of bringing reliable, timely news and information to audiences living in some of the world’s most restricted media environments, RFA’s Uyghur Service has risen above and beyond and continues to stay on top of one of the most difficult, complex, and important stories of our lifetimes.