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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Latin American journalists receive the 2016 Maria Moors Cabot Awards at Columbia University in New York City



The Maria Moors Cabot Prizes for outstanding reporting on the Americas were formally awarded to Latin American journalists on Oct. 18 at a dinner and ceremony at Columbia University in New York.

The Cabot is the oldest international journalism award in the world, and in its 78-year history this was the first time that all awardees were journalists born in Latin America. Traditionally, the prize has been given to two Americans and two Latin Americans, although in the past, journalists from Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain have also been recognized.

The 2016 awards, first announced on July 20, were given to Argentine photographer Rodrigo Abd who works for the Associated Press, Colombian filmmaker Margarita Martínez, Salvadoran investigative reporter Óscar Martínez of digital news site El Faro and Brazilian journalist Rosental Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

L to R: Marina Guevara Walker, Rosental Alves, Margarita Martínez, Rodrigo Abd and Óscar Martínez. (Columbia University/Taggart Photography)
 

Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and the team that coordinated the Panama Papers investigation, were recognized with the special citation.

With the Cabot Awards, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism honors journalists “for career excellence and coverage of the Western Hemisphere that furthers inter-American understanding.”

Each award recipient delivered an acceptance speech discussing their work and career trajectory.

According to the AP, Abd, who has documented social issues across Latin America, described his motivation: “Here is the main point: we care, we love this continent and we want to tell stories in depth in our home countries.”

Margarita Martínez, whose work has looked at the decades-long conflicts in Colombia, lamented the recent “no” vote in a national referendum concerning a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas. Yet, she also expressed optimism that further negotiations could lead to “more consolidated peace,” according to EFE.

Óscar Martínez of El Faro, the oldest digital native news site in Latin America, said that journalists are risking their lives and making progress, but there are always people working to stop them from doing their jobs, EFE reported.

In his acceptance speech, Alves described the Knight Center's work that has reached thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean with training and other initiatives to help them to adapt to the digital age. He highlighted a recent Knight Center program that has trained more than 3,000 Latin American judges and other judicial operators on the legal framework of freedom of expression and protection of journalists.

"This year alone, we [at the Knight Center blog] have reported on 22 cases of journalists murdered. As the Committee to Protect Journalists, UNESCO, IAPA and many other organizations have denounced, those crimes have rarely been properly investigated, elucidated and punished. Impunity has been the fuel of an endemic wave of violence against journalists in the region," Alves said. "Much more must be done to stop the attacks against journalists."

He dedicated his award to “fellow journalists in the Americas who face all sorts of harassment and legal and illegal constraints. They must know they are not alone.”

The long-time journalist and mentor noted that he has covered and worked in topics related to the Americas starting with his first assignment for his school newspaper at the age of 16. Since then, he has worked as a foreign correspondent around the region and founded the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, which offers training for journalists and monitors freedom of expression in the region.

And Guevara, who led the Panama Papers investigative journalists, said, “It is a journalism that is collaborative, that is transnational, that leaves aside the particular egos and gives greater importance to the public interest.”

María Teresa Ronderos, director of Open Society Institute’s Program on Independent Journalism, is chair of a board of 11 journalists and educators that determine the Cabot Prizes. The awards themselves are administered by the trustees of Columbia University.



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