NYT story on drug war deaths wins Pulitzer for breaking news photography

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2 - 11:06 a.m.) A freelance photographer’s “powerful storytelling through images in the New York Times showing the callous disregard for human life in the Philippines brought about by a government assault on drug dealers and users” won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography. “You hear a murder scene before you see it: The desperate cries of a new widow. The piercing sirens of approaching police cars. The thud, thud, thud of the rain drumming on the pavement of a Manila alleyway -- and on the back of Romeo Torres Fontanilla,” opens “They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals,” Daniel Berehulak’s interactive piece which ran in December. As with many stories critical of the bloody war on drugs, Malacanang quickly took exception to Berehulak’s article, with Communications Secretary Martin Andanar calling it “totally one-sided” and insinuating that the photojournalists had not “bothered to check the facts.”

Since then, the New York Times has run other pieces critical of Duterte and his anti-drug campaign, including an editorial that urged accountability and a March 21 feature on his rise to the presidency that drove presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella to accuse the 165-year old publication of being part of a “well-funded campaign utilizing hack writers and their ilk in their bid to oust PRRD.” This time, Abella said: "The Pulitzer Prize Board has its own criteria and selection process and we respect their decision on this matter." He nevertheless accused the "Western press" of being "highly critical of the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drug traffickers and violators." The story was originally entered as a feature but moved to breaking news by the nominating jury, the citation on the Pulitzer Prize website said. Berehulak, a native of Sydney, Australia now based in Mexico City, spent 35 days in Metro Manila where he “photographed 57 homicides at 41 crime scenes where drug users and dealers had been murdered by vigilantes emboldened by President Duterte’s mandate: ‘kill them all’,” the New York Times's "Lens" blog said. In the blog entry, Berehulak thanked Filipino colleagues, among them Dondi Tawatao, Noel Celis, Raffy Lerma, Carlo Gabuco and Patricia Evangelista, saying: "If it wasn’t for their strength and their resilience, the work that I did wouldn’t have been possible. "The way we looked at it was that if we were not doing our jobs, someone looking at history books in 15 years would only have the one-sided reporting from the government. What we’ve been doing is providing evidence and reporting to counter all of the government and police reporting, which was inaccurate in almost every case we examined,” he added.
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