Thai reporter wins 2015 AFP Kate Webb Prize

HONG KONG, China – Thai investigative journalist Mutita Chuachang will receive the 2015 Kate Webb Prize from Agence France-Presse (AFP) for her independent reporting on human rights including Thailand's draconian use of the royal defamation law, the award's administrators announced Tuesday, October 6. 

Mutita is the assistant editor of the non-profit online newspaper Prachatai, where she has worked since 2004. Mutita’s painstaking reporting has sought to make a record of all of those accused of breaching the law despite the challenges posed by the opacity of the Thai legal system as well as the wider social taboo that cloaks the subject. 

“We are recognizing Mutita for her efforts to present a balanced, in-depth coverage of sensitive topics in Thailand, which can be difficult in an extremely dynamic political environment,” said Philippe Massonnet, AFP’s regional director for the Asia-Pacific region.

The prize, which includes a grant of 3,000 euros ($3,400), recognizes Asian journalists for exceptional work in dangerous or difficult conditions.

It is named after New Zealander Kate Webb, one of AFP's finest correspondents, who died in 2007 at the age of 64. Webb earned a reputation as a fearless reporter while covering the Vietnam War and other historic events in Asia during a career spanning four decades, including stints in Thailand and its immediate neighbours.

“I am very moved and honored to receive the Kate Webb Prize,” 33-year-old Mutita said. “But the prize is not about me, my organization or even about the team who contributed to these stories.  The important thing is that it draws attention to this difficult time for human rights in Thailand. When we wrote these stories we were not thinking about being courageous – we all just felt that it was something we had to do and my organisation Prachatai was incredibly supportive.”   

The prize is administered by the AFP Foundation – a non-profit organization set up to promote press freedom through training journalists in developing countries – and the Webb family.

“We are delighted that a Thai reporter has won the prize this year. The Indochina region was special to Kate,” said Webb’s sister Rachel Miller.

Last year’s winner was multimedia journalist Patricia Evangelista from the Philippines.

The prize was first awarded in 2008 to Pakistani reporter Mushtaq Yusufzai for his coverage of the dangerous tribal lands bordering Afghanistan.

Other winners were Indian reporter and photographer Dilnaz Boga, Indonesian journalist Stefanus Teguh Edi Pramono, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism– Rappler.com