Reports on executions, violence and trafficking take home the Latin American Investigative Journalism Award

The 14th Latin American Investigative Journalism Award honored works that uncovered extrajudicial executions in Mexico, violent conflicts over land and timber in Brazil and the trafficking of cultural heritage throughout the region.

According to a press release from the Press and Society Institute (IPYS for its acronym in Spanish), which organizes the prize along with Transparency International (TI), three works were recognized as the winners and another ten earned honorable mentions. These were chosen from an initial pool of 266 works from print, radio, television and digital platforms that were later whittled down to 33.

IPYS said the jury wanted to highlight works on human rights violations, including massacres and extrajudicial executions, and corruption. It also wanted to acknowledge transnational projects that reflect collaboration of various media outlets in the region.

First place went to “‘It was the Federales’” (‘Fueron los Federales’), by Mexican journalist Laura Castellanos and published by digital site Aristegui Noticias and Proceso magazine.

Castellano’s report revealed how federal agents shot at and killed 16 unarmed civilians in Apatzingán, contradicting initial reports from authorities who said they were caught in “cross fire.” Newspaper El Universal, for which Castellanos worked as a freelancer, refused to publish the report. Castellanos’ work was later recognized with the National Journalism Award.

“Castellanos deployed a tireless search for testimonies in a high-risk area, and fought to ensure that the story was known by the public, despite censorship attempts to prevent it from circulating,” the release said.

The team of André Borges, Leonencio Nossa, Dida Sampaio, Helvio Romero, Luciana Garbin, Fábio Salles and Everton de Oliveira, from newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo in Brazil, took second place for the report “Savage Land” (Terra Bruta).

The report was created after a 7-month-long investigation in several Brazilian states into rural conflicts over land and timber. “The journey of this journalistic team into several states permitted the elaboration of a snapshot that exposed how this trafficking served as a source to finance campaigns of elected authorities, and generated violence for the control of land that cost the life of hundreds of people,” IPYS wrote.

The transnational project “Stolen Memory” (Memoria Robada) coordinated by David Hidalgo of Peruvian digital site Ojo Público was awarded third place. The following outlets worked on the project: Ojo Público (Fabiola Torres and José Luis Huacles), newspaper La Nación of Costa Rica (Hassel Fallas and Lorenzo Pirovano), Guatemalan digital site Plaza Pública (Julie López), Argentine site Chequeado (Catalina Oquendo), and Mexican site Animal Político (Tania Montalvo and Arturo Daen).

A six-month transnational investigation led to multiple publications by the various media outlets that told of cases and figures of trafficking of cultural heritage in Latin America. As told by Hidalgo, the project touched antique dealers, politicians, drug traffickers, collectors and diplomats.

The following reports received honorable mention from IPYS and TI:

Santiago O’ Donnell of Argentina, Fernando Rodrigues of Brazil, Giannina Segnini of Costa Rica, Lise Olsen of the United States and Ewald Scharfenberg of Venezuela served on the awards jury.

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.