Esther Htusan

Esther Htusan (pronounced TOO-sahn), is a journalist from Myanmar. She is a former Foreign Correspondent for the Associated Press based in Yangon, Myanmar. In 2016, she was the first person from Myanmar to win the Pulitzer Prize.[2][3]

Esther Htusan
Born1987 (age 33–34)[1]
NationalityKachin/ Myanmar
EducationUniversity of Myitkyina
Notable work
"Seafood from Slaves"

In 2017, Htusan was forced to flee from her country after reporting on Aung San Suu Kyi's policies toward Rohingya refugees.[4] Htusan is now a freelance journalist, living in the United States.[5]

Background and educationEdit

Esther Htusan was born in 1987 in Phakant, Kachin State, Myanmar to ethnic Kachin parents Hkangda Dut La, Bawmli Hkawn Shawng. She finished her primary and secondary education in Myitkyina, Kachin State.[6][7]

She studied Mathematics at the University of Myitkyina where she earned her bachelor's degree in Science in 2008. After graduating from the university she moved to the country's biggest city, Yangon in 2009 to study English and political science.[6][7]


Htusan began her journalism career in 2012, working as a freelance fixer and producer for different international news agencies. she was an editor for Kaung Thant Press, from 2012 to August 2013, before joining the Associated Press in September, 2013.[6][7]

In 2019, looking back at her decision to become a journalist, Htusan wrote about her choice to become a journalist and her parents fear for her safety.[8]

"My parents had watched Maung Thura, a well-known blogger and comedian, being sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment for criticizing the military in 2008. A year later, in 2009, Hla Hla Win, a journalist with the Democratic Voice of Burma was sentenced to 27 years in prison for investigating the military’s violent crackdown on Buddhist monks during the 2007 Saffron Revolution. They were worried that if I became a journalist, I would end up in prison too."

In 2013, after investigating confiscation of more than 500 acres of farmland by the Navy, a military intelligence officer visited her apartment to interrogate her. When she learned about the visit, she fled to Shan State in the east of Burma for two weeks.[8] Eventually, her fear of imprisonment and prosecution was realized, and Htusan was forced to flee from her home because of her 2017 reporting on Aung San Suu Kyi's policies toward Rohingya refugees and the ongoing "clearance operations" surrounding the Rohingya conflict.[4][9]

Reporting on slavery in Thailand's fishing fleetsEdit

In 2014, Htusan and Margie Mason embarked on a 30-hour journey to investigate enslaved Burmese fishermen in the remote island village of Benjina in eastern Indonesia.[6][10] Htusan, and other members of the Associated Press team, spent over a year of investigations leading up to publication of what they learned.[2][10]

In 2015, the Associated Press began publishing a series of stories that Htusan, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, and Martha Mendoza, had been working on.[2] The series was the product of over a year of investigative reporting, and led to the rescue of over 2000 slaves in the fishing trade. The stories covered enslaved fishermen and the ordeal they lived through; some were locked in a cages, some of the dead were buried without their family's knowledge, and the inhumane conditions they suffered through.[11][12][13]

The series of stories began running in March, 2015, as listed below.

  • "US Supply Chain Tainted by Slave-Caught Fish," AP Video, March 24, 2015.
  • "AP Investigation: Are slaves catching the fish you buy?" Robin McDowell, Associated Press, March 25, 2015.[14]
  • "AP Investigation prompts emergency rescue of 300 plus slaves," Robin McDowell and Margie Mason, Associated Press, April 3, 2015.[15]
  • "US lets in Thai fish caught by slaves despite law," Martha Mendoza , Associated Press, April 22, 2015.[16]
  • " Seafood from Slaves: 22 years a slave," Margie Mason, Associated Press, June 29, 2015.[17]
  • "AP Exclusive: AP tracks slave boats to Papua New Guinea," Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Margie Mason, Associated Press, July 27, 2015.[18]
  • "AP Investigation prompts new round of slave rescues," Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza, July 30, 2015.[19]
  • "More than 2,000 enslaved fishermen rescued in 6 months," Ester Htusan and Margie Mason, Associated Press, September 17, 2015.[12]
  • "Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves," Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan, Associated Press, December 14, 2015.[11]

The reporting led to coverage in numerous US newspapers as well as international coverage[20][21][22][23] and the U.S. State Department began their own investigation and new legislation was passed to help close loopholes that allowed sales of products produced with slave labor.[24][25][26]


Htusan and the staff of the Associated Press won multiple awards for the coverage of slave-labor in the fishing industry and are listed below.

  • 2015 The Hal Boyle Award for best newspaper reporting from abroad[27]
  • 2015 the AP's Oliver S. Gramling Journalism Award recognizing AP staffers for professional excellence[28]
  • 2015 University of Oregon's Ancil Award for Ethics in Journalism[29]
  • 2015 Arizona State University’s Barlett & Steele (Gold) Award for Investigative Business Journalism[30]
  • 2015 George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting[31]
  • 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service[2]
  • 2016 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting[32]
  • 2016 Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism[33]
  • 2016 Seldon Ring Award, recognizing investigative reporting that has had an impact and caused change[34]
  • 2016 Michael Kelly Award for the fearless pursuit and expression of truth[13]


  1. ^ "Myanmar (Burma): Burma Celebrates First Pulitzer Prize-Winning Female Journalist". Thai News Service. April 21, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d The Pulitzer Prizes. "2016 Pulitzer Prizes Journalism". Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  3. ^ "Burma Celebrates First Pulitzer Prize-Winning Female Journalist". The Irrawaddy. 2016-04-19. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  4. ^ a b "Threats, arrests, and access denied as Myanmar backtracks on press freedom". Committee to Protect Journalists. 2018-02-12. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  5. ^ "Esther Htusan | The New Humanitarian". Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  6. ^ a b c d KLN (2016-05-22). "Esther Htusan, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Kachin Journalist". Kachinland News. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  7. ^ a b c "Running in the direction of danger". The Myanmar Times. 6 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b "The Price Burma's Journalists Pay". Civil Rights Defenders. 2019-12-27. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  9. ^ "ESTHER HTUSAN | The Seattle Times". Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  10. ^ a b Expat, Indonesia (2017-11-20). "Margie Mason, Pulitzer-Prize Winning Journalist". Indonesia Expat. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  11. ^ a b "Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves". AP Explore: Seafood from slaves. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  12. ^ a b "More than 2,000 enslaved fishermen rescued in 6 months". AP Explore: Seafood from slaves. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  13. ^ a b "Martha Mendoza, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Esther Htusan". The Michael Kelly Award. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  14. ^ "AP Investigation: Are slaves catching the fish you buy?". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  15. ^ "AP investigation prompts emergency rescue of 300 plus slaves". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  16. ^ "US lets in Thai fish caught by slaves despite law". AP Explore: Seafood from slaves. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  17. ^ "Seafood from Slaves". Associated Press. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  18. ^ "AP Exclusive: AP tracks slave boats to Papua New Guinea". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  19. ^ "AP investigation prompts new round of slave rescues". AP Explore: Seafood from slaves. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  20. ^ karafyllis (2015-03-26). "AP: End slavery in Thailand's fishing fleets". New Europe. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  21. ^ Limited, Bangkok Post Public Company. "Shrimp shed owners deny worker abuse". Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  22. ^ "AP: Shrimp processed by slaves sold in major U.S. stores". Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  23. ^ Ferdman, Roberto A. "Don't eat that shrimp". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  24. ^ "House bill to require disclosure of efforts to eliminate slave labor from supply chains". Cooley PubCo. 2015-07-28. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  25. ^ "Slave-Labor Loophole Closed By Senate After 8 Decades". Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  26. ^ Booth, Barbara (2016-03-03). "The victims of the 21st-century slave trade". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  27. ^ "01 The Hal Boyle Award Archives". OPC. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  28. ^ "AP announces winners of 2015 Oliver S. Gramling Awards". Associated Press. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  29. ^ "SOJC recognizes outstanding journalistic ethics with 16th annual Ancil Payne Award". School of Journalism and Communication. 2018-11-21. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  30. ^ "Barlett & Steele Awards". Reynolds Center. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  31. ^ "Past Winners | Long Island University". Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  32. ^ "Previous Winners and Finalists". Shorenstein Center. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  33. ^ "Inaugural Anthony Lewis Prize Award Winner Announced". World Justice Project. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  34. ^ "Selden Ring Previous Winners". Retrieved 2020-10-08.