Mexican journalist announced as first winner of Breach-Valdez award as namesakes’ cases see one-year anniversaries

Mexican journalist Daniela Rea is the first winner of Breach-Valdez award for journalism and human rights. Upon receiving the award in Mexico City on May 3, which also marks World Press Freedom Day, Rea dedicated it to the families of its namesakes, slain Mexican journalists Miroslava Breach and Javier Valdez, as well as the other “113 colleagues who have been killed in Mexico since 2000.” She received the prize from Valdez’s widow, Griselda Triana, and journalist Pepe Reveles.

“This is an award that confronts us and makes us uncomfortable because it should not exist, because nobody should die for doing their job,” Rea said, according to a UN press release. “Journalists continue to go out into the streets in spite of the fear, of the disease, physical and emotional, in spite of the poverty, in spite of the family discussions about what it means to exercise this profession that we love so much in a country like Mexico.”

“What we are doing is journalism of life. To speak of human rights in this country is to talk about how the meaning of words has been emptied. Trying to name, this is also our job,” she continued. “We are still afraid, but here we are, doing our job, trying to see a more dignified and humane country on the horizon.”

Award organizers recognized Rea’s work on issues of violence, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, displacements, torture, abuses of power and impunity, and more.

“Through her work, Daniela Rea embodies a new generation of independent and supportive journalists who aspire to build new forms of association to continue exercising this profession freely and without censorship despite the dangers, precariousness and threats,” a UN release said. “A journalism that questions dominant narratives and proposes new ways of documenting, explaining, analyzing and denouncing injustices and violations of the most fundamental rights.”

Rea, 35, has worked in Veracruz and covered the consequences of the so-called war on drugs for newspaper Reforma in Mexico City, according to AFP. She is also a member of the Periodistas de a Pie network of journalists and frequently publishes on the site, and in magazines nationally and internationally.

She has authored several books, including “País de Muertos” (Country of the dead) and “Entre las cenizas” (Among the ashes). She also directed the award-winning documentary film, “Eternity Never Surrendered,” which looks at two women who lost loved ones – one to organized crime and another who was disappeared.

Organizers announced the creation of the Breach-Valdez award on March 22 of this year. The groups that established it include the Center of Information of the United Nations (CINU, for its acronym in Spanish), the Office in Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (ONU-DH), UNESCO, Ibero-American University, the Press and Democracy Program (PRENDE), AFP and the French Embassy in Mexico

Breach, an investigative reporter who also reported on organized crime and politics, was shot while in her car in Chihuahua on March 23, 2017. The veteran journalist was editorial director for Norte in Ciudad Juárez and a correspondent for La Jornada and El Diario de Chihuahua. Just one person has been detained in the case, Juan Carlos Moreno Ochoa “El Larry,” who is accused of being the intellectual author of the crime. The lawyer representing Breach, Sara Mendiola, said that the State Attorney General restricted access to the case file for almost a year without good reason, according to newspaper El Universal.

More than a year after her murder, the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) confirmed on April 27 that Breach’s case would be passed onto the Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE). That entity will continue investigations.

An award-winning journalist, Valdez was killed on May 15, 2017 in Sinaloa just blocks from his office. A co-founder of the weekly Ríodoce, he was known internationally for his coverage of drug trafficking in the region.

A suspect in his killing, Heriberto “N,” known as “Koala,” was arrested on April 23. However, international advocates have pressed the government to identify the mastermind behind the murder.

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.