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Ukrainian journalists win a Pulitzer citation for their courage and persistence

Journalists conduct interviews on the doorstep of an hotel on Maidan Square on March 1, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Pulitzer Prize Board is honoring the courage and commitment of Ukranian journalists.
Pierre Crom
Getty Images
Journalists conduct interviews on the doorstep of an hotel on Maidan Square on March 1, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Pulitzer Prize Board is honoring the courage and commitment of Ukranian journalists.

Among yesterday's list of Pulitzer Prize winnerswas a group of people who weren't honored individually, but instead credited for their commitment to the profession as an entire category: the journalists of Ukraine.

The Pulitzer Prize Board awarded Ukranian journalists a special citation for what it described as "their courage, endurance, and commitment to truthful reporting during Vladimir Putin's ruthless invasion of their country and his propaganda war in Russia."

"Despite bombardment, abductions, occupation, and even deaths in their ranks, they have persisted in their effort to provide an accurate picture of a terrible reality, doing honor to Ukraine and to journalists around the world," the announcement reads.

The Pulitzer board says on its website that it awards special awards or citations, on rare occasions, to "a work or an individual of particular merit." Last year's special citation went to Darnella Frazier, who filmed George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis when she was 17.

While prize winners in most categories get a $15,000 cash award, Marjorie Miller, an administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, told NPR over email that there is no set practice on special citation winners.

"In this case, the board didn't assign a monetary award as there is not a specific person or organization," she explained. "They wanted to recognize all Ukranian journalists covering the war."

At least seven journalists have been killed while covering the war in Ukraine, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Poynter reports that three of them were Ukranian nationals: Yevhenii Sakun, a camera operator for Ukraine's LIVE station; Fox News producer Oleksandra (Sasha) Kuvshynova and photojournalist Maksym (Maks) Levin.

CPJ says it is investigating the deaths of five other journalists to determine if they were work-related.

"Scores more have faced shelling, shooting and detention as they work to provide vital information about the invasion," the organization said, adding that Russian journalists have also faced threats and detention during Moscow's crackdown on independent media.

The Pulitzer citation comes less than a week after independent rights experts appointed by the United Nations warned that journalists in Ukraine had been targeted and remained in danger.

In a joint statement, the officials outlined six areas of concern, from reports of Russian cyberattacks in Ukraine to censorship and disinformation about the war in Russia. One of those categories was the safety of media workers in Ukraine, who they said "are carrying out their work under unprecedented conditions, and are now at a very high risk."

"There are numerous reports that journalists are being targeted, tortured, kidnapped, attacked and killed, or refused safe passage from the cities and regions under siege," they wrote, adding that attacks to kill, injure or abduct journalists are considered war crimes under international humanitarian law.

They also said states must take measures to trace missing journalists, provide assistance and help return them to their families.

Social media users — including some Ukranian journalists — applauded and appreciated the Pulitzer news after Monday's announcement, acknowledging the pain and difficulty of covering a war in one's own homeland.

"Every reporter in Ukraine is doing their job under impossible, harrowing, heartbreaking conditions," tweetedJane Lytvynenko, a senior research fellow at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center. "They deserve every award. Congratulations to the journalists of Ukraine, you are an inspiration and masters of the profession."

She added "take care of yourselves" and a link for people to donate to a Ukraine journalism emergency fund to provide equipment like satellite phones and bulletproof vests.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.