Esther Htusan, 28, is an ethnic Kachin from the northernmost part of Myanmar. After graduating from the Kachin State University and experiencing civil war in the region, she moved to Yangon to study English and political science.
In 2012, Htusan began her journalism career by working as a freelance producer, fixer and translator for international news agencies covering the parliamentary by-elections. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in the elections, a significant development that paved the way for her League for Democracy to eventually win a parliamentary majority and form the government in 2015.
In 2013, Htusan joined the Associated Press as a reporter. Since then, she has been relentlessly pursuing stories about human rights abuses in Myanmar following a half-century of dictatorship. She has reported on the plight of the Rohingyas, who are Muslims living in the Rakhine state in the country’s western shore but are denied Myanmar citizenship.
Htusan was a member of the Associated Press investigation team that looked into forced labor in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry. Her compassion and resourcefulness in reporting led to some of the most powerful images the world has seen about modern day slavery, including men in a cage on a remote Indonesian island. Htusan helped interviewed forced laborers who spoke of abuses at the hands of their captains and begged the journalists to tell their families back home that they were still alive. Her team’s work won 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.