Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Belfast Telegraph photographer wins Pulitzer

By Allan Preston

A Northern Ireland photographer has won a Pulitzer Prize for his harrowing images of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Cathal McNaughton picked up the award for his work with international news agency Reuters.

Mr McNaughton (40), from Cushendall in Co Antrim, is Reuters' chief photographer in India.

He described the prestigious accolade as bitter-sweet, saying: "The thing you can't see in the photographs are the noises when thousands and thousands of people are fighting for their lives."

A former Belfast Telegraph photographer and Sunday Life deputy picture editor, he and his colleagues were picked by the Pulitzer panel "for shocking photographs that exposed the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced in fleeing Myanmar". His shots taken last year in a camp in Bangladesh showed the distressed faces of the refugees, a Muslim minority, scrambling for aid and an image of a security guard brandishing a baton. "This is what we were faced with for days and days on end," he said.

"You see humanity at its most basic in front of you. Children fighting adults for food, adults stealing food and aid from children, it's very hard to take in."

With extreme heat and an environment of chaos, he said it was a tough assignment.

"To see these people being beaten back from basic necessities - even though if the guards hadn't done so there would be mass casualties - it's a very surreal environment and not something you can be prepared for," he said.

With the awards taking place in the US, he was asleep when he received the call in India. He said: "It's a great honour. I don't know if there's any way you're meant to react when you receive such news.

"It's mixed emotions. I'm extremely happy and proud of the team, but then it's a bit strange receiving an accolade for covering a story that's so meaningful and emotive."

Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J Adler said: "The extraordinary photography of the mass exodus of the Rohingya people to Bangladesh demonstrates not only the human cost of conflict but also the essential role photojournalism can play in revealing it."

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