FRONTLINE Wins Peabody Award for ‘China Undercover’

"China Undercover" has been named a winner in the 2021 Peabody Awards.

"China Undercover" has been named a winner in the 2021 Peabody Awards.

June 21, 2021

China Undercover, FRONTLINE’s documentary investigating what has been described as the largest mass incarceration of an ethnic group since the Holocaust, was named a 2021 George Foster Peabody Award winner in the News category on Monday.

The April 2020 documentary went inside China’s tightly controlled Xinjiang region to explore the Chinese Communist regime’s mass imprisonment of an estimated 2 million Uyghur and other Muslim minorities — and its use and testing of sophisticated surveillance technology on Muslim communities.

“As a proud member of the American Muslim community, I would like to personally thank FRONTLINE, PBS and their award-winning journalists for putting together an incredible documentary called China Undercover, a chilling and harrowing tale of the modern surveillance state,” Peabody presenter Hasan Minhaj, an actor, commentator and comedian, said in a video from the Peabody Awards announcing the honor.

From filmmakers Robin Barnwell and Gesbeen Mohammad, the documentary featured harrowing accounts of Muslims who were held in detention camps and undercover footage that showed extensive digital surveillance of Muslims living in Xinjiang. In awarding a Peabody to the film, jurors wrote that China Undercover showed how, “[w]orking with Chinese technology companies, the government employs surveillance technologies such as advanced predictive algorithmic facial recognition software, cameras on every street corner, and houses marked with digital barcodes to monitor and ultimately detain Muslims whose behavior is ‘predicted’ as threatening.”

“The implications for human rights abuses,” the jurors’ comments continued, “extend far beyond the Chinese border. For exposing the world’s most threatening totalitarian government through dangerous undercover reporting, China Undercover wins a Peabody.”

“Thank you to the Peabody Board of Directors and Jurors for this incredible honor,” Barnwell said in the Peabody video. This film could not have been made without the incredible bravery of our China Undercover team. The risks they took to tell the devastating story of the persecution of the Uyghurs and the destruction of their culture [are] extraordinary.”

“We’re so proud that this reporting on the Chinese government’s actions targeting Uyghur and other Muslims in Xinjiang has been named a Peabody Award winner,” said FRONTLINE’s executive producer, Raney Aronson-Rath. “Thank you to the Peabody board of jurors, the remarkable film team, our loyal viewers, and to GBH, PBS and CPB for championing our journalism.”

Since 1940, the prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards have honored excellence in broadcasting; they have evolved to recognize excellence in digital storytelling as well. Four other FRONTLINE documentaries, Battle for Hong Kong, COVID’S Hidden TollPolicing the Police 2020 and Whose Vote Counts, have also been nominated for 2021 Peabody Awards. This year’s Peabody Award winners are being announced by celebrity presenters via videos on social media Monday, June 21 through Thursday, June 24.

Including today’s honor, FRONTLINE, which is produced at GBH in Boston and airs nationwide on PBS, has won 25 Peabody Awards. Watch the award-winning film, China Undercover, below, and stay tuned as more Peabody winners are announced.

China Undercover is a Hardcash production for GBH/FRONTLINE and ITV in association with Entertainment One. It was produced by Robin Barnwell and Gesbeen Mohammad and directed by Robin Barnwell. The senior producer is Dan Edge. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. See full credits here.

Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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