Brazilians take top prize at Latin American investigative journalism conference

The Latin American Conference on Investigative Journalism awarded its top investigative reporting prize to four Brazilians as the conference ended on Sept. 5 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The conference awarded the 2010-2011 Investigative Journalism Prize to four Brazilian journalists from the newspaper Gazeta do Povo and RPC TV. Their report "The Secret Diaries of Paraná," on the diversion of millions of dollars of public funds by the Paraná Legislative Assembly, took first place.

El Salvadoran journalist Carlos Dada took second place for his report, "This is how we kill Father Romero," published in the online newspaper, El Faro. Third place was awarded to Argentine Hugo Alconada for his report on the state's investigation into the finances of political opponents for the La Nación newspaper.

The jury gave special mention to investigative journalism from non-profit digital media like El Faro in El Salvador, Ciper in Chile, IDL-Reporteros from Peru and Verdad Abierta in Colombia.

Fears about the risks facing investigative journalists in the region hung over the conference. The newspaper El Comercio reported that 39 of the journalists present at the conference, organized by Press and Society Institute and Transparency International, had civil or criminal cases pending against them. A journalist accused of illegal activity in Ecuador was sentenced to pay compensation of $5 million; the average in Peru is $1 million. On top of pressure from governments, journalists face violence from criminal elements as well. Twenty journalists have been killed so far in 2011 in Latin America.

Colombian journalist Mary Luz Avendaño, who recently fled her homeland under death threats, presented at the conference. "I've already been away from my home for a month but I hope to be able to return some day," Avedaño said with tears in her eyes, reported El Comercio.