CPJ award honors Mauri König, Brazilian veteran reporter who exposed sex traffickers and child exploitation

By Alejandro Martínez

Brazil’s veteran investigative reporter Mauri König was one of four journalists from around the globe to receive on Wednesday the Committee to Protect Journalists’ prestigious International Press Freedom Award for this year. The award honors courageous journalists who risk their lives with their investigations and often face retaliations.

“Many journalists have paid with their lives for believing that journalism is a tool for improving our reality, revealing injustices, denouncing corrupt governments, and exposing arbitrary police,” said König in his acceptance speech during CPJ’s 22nd International Press Freedom Awards benefit dinner in New York. “In their memory, I share this award with those who seek to exercise journalism as an instrument of change, even if this implies some risk.”

König is a director of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) and, since 2002, works with the daily Gazeta do Povo in Curitiba, state of Parana. He has more than two decades of experience and, with 21 important journalism prizes, König has become one of the most respected investigative journalists in the country.

König’s stories have often focused on denouncing human rights abuses and corruption. In 2004, König wrote a series of articles on sex trafficking of minors along the Brazilian border that led to the arrest of a top trafficker in the region.

He is no stranger to pressures and aggressions because of his work. According to Gazeta do Povo, König had to move with his family and change cities in 2003 after receiving threats related to an investigation on a crime ring involving police officers and stolen cars.

And in 2000, CPJ reported, König was brutally beaten and left for dead while working on an investigation on the kidnapping of Brazilian children for recruitment by the Paraguayan military service.

“A journalism student once asked me if I was not afraid to do this kind of investigative work," he said in his speech. "I replied that my indignation is greater than my fear. Indignation is what best defines the motivation of those who do this kind of journalism.”

According to Gazeta do Povo, König’s last large project was published in September and focused on sexual exploitation in the Brazilian cities that will host the World Cup in 2014.

Besides König, CPJ also honored three other journalists, Dhondup Wangchen from China, Azimjon Askarov from Kyrgyzstan, and Mae Azango from Liberia.

See CNN's video below summarizing König's career:

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.