VR and Digital Innovation Studio wins ‘Best Use of Digital Media’ for interactive about Uighurs in diaspora.
Al Jazeera’s Emmy-nominated immersive storytelling and media innovation unit, AJ Contrast, has won a prestigious Amnesty Media Award. The awards, hosted by Amnesty International, annually recognise excellence in human rights reporting.
AJ Contrast beat The Guardian and two other Al Jazeera finalists to win “Best Use of Digital Media” for its long-form interactive, Living in the Unknown, during a virtual webcast from London on Wednesday. The interactive site has previously garnered other accolades, including a 2020 Online Journalism Award for Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling. The site follows up the 2018 virtual reality documentary by the same name.
Living in the Unknown brings us into the daily routines of four Uighur women who fled state-sponsored persecution in northwestern China and are now rebuilding their lives in Istanbul, Turkey. But this is no usual exile, as any contact with their families back home could land them in internment camps in China’s Xinjiang province, where rights groups believe that at least one million Uighur Muslims are being detained.
A report published by Human Rights Watch on April 19 alleges that Uighurs in Xinjiang are being subjected to “policies of mass detention, torture, and cultural persecution, among other offenses”.
“We’re humbled to receive this honour on behalf of the Uighurs suffering from wide-scale abuse,” said Head of AJ Contrast, Zahra Rasool. “Our team continues to employ the most innovative techniques and formats to tell stories with and about those hardest hit by conflict and inequality. The time we spent with Uighur families enabled us to more fully understand their emotional duress and alienation.”
Blazing digital trails, this is the second time in three years that Al Jazeera Digital has taken top prize in Amnesty’s “Best Use of Digital Media” category. AJLabs, Al Jazeera’s interactive unit, won the prize in 2019 for an interactive and graphic novel about Nigerian children being branded as witches by village elders and religious leaders. AJLabs was also in direct competition with AJ Contrast this year with another graphic novel, Motherhood in Crisis.
“We’re very proud of our AJ Contrast team,” said Al Jazeera’s Director of Digital Innovation and Programming, Carlos van Meek. “This is a talented group that’s constantly pushing the envelope on important stories and seeking new and exciting opportunities to collaborate with others.”
Winners and shortlisted finalists in other categories included CNN International, BBC World Service, The Guardian, Middle East Eye and National Geographic.