Two Mexican reporters win Knight International Journalism Awards for brave coverage of drug cartels

By Ian Tennant

Two Mexican journalists who risk their lives covering the illegal drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border will receive the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) announced June 22.

Winners Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto are investigative reporters for El Diario de Juárez in Ciudad Juárez, across the U.S. border from El Paso, Texas. Among their extraordinary journalistic efforts, the two reporters have "proved that the government and army were arresting and sometimes torturing innocent people as part of the war on drugs," ICFJ said.

"While others are silenced by threats and attacks, these women have stood up to the most feared and ruthless cartels imaginable to inform citizens and improve their community," said Jose Zamora, from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The ICFJ administers the Knight International Journalism Fellowships program, which is funded by the Knight Foundation.

Journalists trying to report on events in and around Ciudad Juárez often face violent situations, even at the hands of authorities, as three media workers found out in May when they were arrested and roughed up by police.

Gallegos and Rodríguez will receive their honors at a gala evening in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1, along with Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath, who spent a decade tracking down a former leader of the Khmer Rouge, the murderous regime that killed nearly 2 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.

Brazilian investigative reporter Daniela Arbex, a correspondent for the Tribuna de Minas newspaper in Juiz de Fora, received the Knight International Journalism Award in 2010.

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.