IAPA honors Robert Cox for his fearless journalism during Argentina's "Dirty War"

A British-born journalist lauded for his courageous coverage of the military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983) has been awarded the Grand Prize for Press Freedom by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

Robert Cox, the former editor of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald, was honored for his "long career as a journalist and his courage in the defense of freedom of the press and of expression," IAPA said in a statement.

"His biography illustrates like no other the importance of the press in the defense of freedom in the face of dictatorships of any stripe,” said IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín of the Guatemala City newspaper Siglo 21.

Cox arrived in Buenos Aires in 1959 to work as a copy editor for the Herald, eventually working his way up to the editor's position. A military coup in 1976 plunged Argentina into what has been called the Dirty War, when thousands of people were killed or "disappeared." Cox is credited with saving many lives, Time reported in 2010, by simply publishing photos and stories of innocent people who were scooped up and jailed by federal authorities.

As a result of the Herald's fearless coverage, said The Guardian's Roy Greenslade, its "circulation jumped from a few thousand to more than 20,000 copies daily as people sought uncensored news."

"Argentina owes Cox an enormous, if painful, debt of gratitude," Jorge Fontevecchia said in the Time story last year. Fontevecchia, owner of the media group Perfil, was a young journalist in 1979 when he was kidnapped by a military squad and taken to the Olimpo death camp. He says Cox saved his life by reporting on his arrest. "Cox was journalism in its purest form," Fontevecchia declared. "We Argentine journalists have the duty to imitate his example."

Now 76 and retired, Cox served as editor of the Post & Courier in Charleston, S.C., where he landed in 1979 after his family received threats. Back in Buenos Aires in 2010 for the launch of the Spanish version of Dirty Secrets, Dirty War: The Exile of Robert J. Cox (Buenos Aires, Argentina: 1976-1983), written by his son David Cox, an alternate media coordinator at CNN, Robert Cox told Time that it was "great to be back in a reality in which I exist, because it was so hard to establish what happened . . . and to find people who say to me, 'You saved my life.' This is overwhelming."

At that time in 2010, Robert Cox also received an honorary citizenship from the city of Buenos Aires.

Cox will receive the IAPA award during the organization’s 67th General Assembly in Lima, Peru, Oct. 14-18. Other winners of the annual awards, which encourage excellence in journalism and defense of freedom of expression throughout the Americas, include:

• John MacCormack, of the San Antonio Express-News, will receive the Inter-American Relations Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Award (sponsored by La Prensa, Managua, Nicaragua) for his series on the impact of the illicit drug trade on Mexico and the U.S. border region.

• The IAPA Newspaper in Education Award (sponsored by Novedades de Quintana Roo, Cancún, Mexico, and El Diario de Hoy, San Salvador, El Salvador), was awarded to the Education Department of El Diario de Hoy (Lorena Martínez, Cristina Alvarado, César Rodríguez, Karina Ronquillo, Patricia Arévalo, Moris Aldana and Roberto Gómez) for “Educa Hoy” (Educating Today), a program that is a major contribution to the development of the education of children and youths of El Salvador.

• Nilson Souza, executive edtitor of the Opinion section of Zero Hora, in Brazil, will receive the IAPA Opinion Award (sponsored by El Mercurio, Santiago, Chile) for a series of editorials on issues such as education, a lack of safety and on electoral questions.

• A team of reporters from the Brazilian newspaper O Dia — Adriana Crus, Isabel Boechat, Maria Inez Magalhães and Paula Sarapu — received the IAPA News Coverage Award (sponsored by El Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela and O Estado de S. Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil) for their coverage of the raid on the Alemão shantytown in Rio de Janeiro.

• The IAPA In-Depth Journalism Award (sponsored by The Miami Herald) was awarded to Leonencio Nossa Junior, Celso Júnior, Farrell, and José Eduardo Barella, of O Estado de S. Paulo, Brazil, for “Guerras desconhecidas do Brasil” (Unknown Wars of Brazil), a special 24-page notebook about nine of some 32 conflicts forgotten or unknown in the history of Brazil.

• Alejandro Mareco, of La Voz del Interior, received the Features Award (sponsored by El Comercio, Quito, Ecuador, and McClatchy Newspapers, Sacramento, Calif.) for his series “Argentinos del Bicentenario” (Argentines of the Bicentennial) which celebrated the country's 200th anniversary with unique storytelling from a geographic perspective.

• The IAPA Photography Award (sponsored by The Washington Post Company, and ABC Color, Asunción, Paraguay) was awarded to Rodrigo Buendía Herdoiza, of El Universo, Ecuador, for his dramatic images of the police rebellion against Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa on Oct. 1, 2010.

• Xavier Bonilla Zapata, also from El Universo, received the IAPA Cartoons Award (sponsored by El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia) for his series about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's comments on control of the internet.

• The IAPA Infographics Award (sponsored by Clarín, Buenos Aires, Argentina) was awarded to Cristian Fiol, Francisco Escudero, Roberto Ortega, Natalia Herrera, Juan Pablo Bravo, and René Olivares, El Mercurio, Chile, for their series in August 2010 that dealt with the contact with and rescue of the Atacama miners, which the IAPA called "one of the journalistic highlights of 2010."

• Journalists from La Nación, Argentina, were awarded the IAPA Online News Coverage Award (sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, New York) for the multimedia special “Camino del Bicentenario” (Path to the Bicentennial), about the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the May Revolution. Santiago Dapelo, Luis Casabal, Gastón De La Llana, Juan López, Sandra Venditti and Martín Turnes created "an almost encyclopedic production" with research, analysis and multiple sources to link the past with the present regarding topics like “democracy” and “Argentinism,” IAPA said.