Megha Rajagopalan: Pulitzer Winner and Woman of the Moment

Jun/17/2021 / by Pratika Yashaswi

Award-winning journalist Megha Rajagopalan courts danger, fights the bureaucracies of various countries, and investigates the mess-ups of the world for a living. You can read her work in 7 languages. If you ever find yourself in the J-school classrooms at Columbia and NYU, you’ll probably read it there too. The ex-Fulbright Fellow has just added another another accomplishment to her long list—and a prime one at that.

She is now the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for “Investigative Reporting,” sharing the accolade with Alison Killing and Christo Buschek, all from BuzzFeed News. Rajagopalan continues to be on the team at Buzzfeed News.

The Pulitzer board recognized Rajagopalan and her Buzzfeed team’s work on “…a series of clear and compelling stories that used satellite imagery and architectural expertise, as well as interviews with two dozen former prisoners, to identify a vast new infrastructure built by the Chinese government for the mass detention of Muslims.”

One of the Buzzfeed team’s spectacular images from the award-winning series

You can see a great example from this rich-media series here.

Who is Megha Rajagopalan?

Rajagopalan was the first to find and enter the internment camps in Xinjiang province (image credits: Twitter)

Here’s a quick bio. Rajagopalan is an international investigative reporter who has lived and reported out of 23 countries (and counting). She’s particularly known for reporting difficult stories. She’s exposed the links between Facebook and religious violence in Sri Lanka, reported on the nuclear crisis in North Korea, and covered the peace process in Afghanistan. Currently based in London and still with Buzzfeed, she speaks three languages fluently.

Rollercoaster that it is,  Rajagopalan’s career is the kind that could make a Netflix documentary—if she ever catches a breath of course. 

What did she expose at Uighur?

Rajagopalan was the first reporter to discover and visit one of China’s nefarious internment camps in Xinjiang province. China now imprisons more than a million Uighur Muslims. At these camps, prisoners face traumatic and inhuman treatment on a daily basis. Rajagopalan acquired first-hand information about the atrocities imposed upon the prisoners. One can say that Megha Rajagopalan was the first to shed light on the plight of the Uighur Muslims.

Is Megha Rajagopalan the first South Asian to win the Pulitzer for reporting in 2021?

Nope. South Asia has a long history of producing stellar female journalists in various categories. Just last year, Anushree Fadnavis was part of the Reuters team that won in the “Breaking News Photography” category for covering the Hong Kong protests.

Years ago, in 2003, Geeta Anand, now Dean and professor at Berkeley, also won an award in “Explanatory Reporting” as a part of a WSJ team.

In 2016, Sanghamitra Kalita, then managing editor of Los Angeles Times, won in the “Breaking News” category for her team’s reporting on the 2015 San Bernardino shooting and the subsequent terror investigation.

This year, Neil Bedi of Tampa Bay Times won the Pulitzer for “Local Reporting,” sharing the accolade with Kathleen McGrory, for exposing a Sheriff’s Office initiative that used computer modelling to identify about 1,000 adults and children believed to be future crime suspects.

megha rajagopalan
Rajagopalan speaking at the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum at Taiwan

In a world where the media is losing its conscience at a rate outpacing those who strive to keep up the fight, journalists like Rajagopalan place themselves at great personal risk to keep the fourth pillar of democracy erect. Fake news, biased reporting, and alarmism may continue to abound, but gems like Megha Rajagopalan will always find a way to shine.

For more content on badass South Asian women you need to know, check out photographer Arati Kumar Rao or Sapna Pandya, a Queer pandita.