Juárez journalists win the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award by exposing the epidemic of violence and fear brought on by the drug war
By Dave Acosta on July 1, 2011
EL PASO – Juárez journalists, Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, were awarded the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award last week for their investigative work on El Diario De Juárez, in the world’s most violent city.
The award symbolizes a “valuable recognition” of the work of journalists in Ciudad Juárez, Rodríguez said. She hopes that it also will change the commonly believed notion that Mexican reporters on the border have been silenced by the lawlessness in the embattled city.
Joyce Barnathan, president of the International Center for Journalism said, “These extraordinary journalists dare to tell stories that few have the courage to address. Because of them, we have an essential understanding of the tragedies faced by citizens in México.”
Rodríguez’ and Gallegos’ investigative reporting has done much to expose corrupt government officials and the ruthless drug cartels battling for control in Juárez and other parts of México. The two women have documented the epidemic of violence and fear brought on by the drug war along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“While others are silenced by threats and attacks, these women have stood up to the most feared and ruthless cartels imaginable,” said John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s José Zamora, who made the announcement at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Rodríguez and Gallegos, exposed human rights violations committed by the Mexican government and army against innocent people not involved in the drug war. Their reporting on the murder of fellow journalist Armando Rodríguez led to increased pressure on the Mexican government to solve the case.
Rodríguez was also part of a team of journalists that analyzed all the murders in Juárez in 2008 and 2009. She found that, contrary to what Mexican officials were saying, most of the victims were children and teens who were not involved in drug trafficking.
“Rocío and Sandra are brave, tenacious journalists and richly deserve this recognition. Their outstanding investigative reporting has thrown light on many of causes, consequences and actors responsible for the extreme violence gripping their border city,” said Zita Arocha, Director of Borderzine.com at the University of Texas at El Paso. Both reporters earned masters degrees in communication from UTEP. “Despite the brazen murder of two fellow journalists, they continue the exacting work of collecting and publishing stories about the complex social puzzle that is the daily war on Juárez,” Arocha said.
The fearless work of these and other journalists has given a voice to the poverty-stricken people of Juárez who live in constant fear of both the drug cartels and the Mexican government. Journalists have been a key component in exposing the ways that the drug war is affecting society that may not be as obvious as the daily violence, such as police corruption and poverty, Gallegos said.
“I think that journalists are an important counterweight to the abuses of the army and, above all, to expose the human cost of the armed strategy used to confront drug trafficking,” Gallegos said.