NEW YORK _ Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism honoured six journalists Wednesday night for excellence in reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean.
One of those accepting the Maria Moors Cabot Prize was Frank Bajak, the Lima, Peru-based chief of Andean news for The Associated Press. He stressed the need for journalists in the region to protect their sources, as well as safeguard the confidential information they provide, in reporting on what governments and other powerful forces are doing.
“If we are to remain credible _ if we want people to trust us with delicate data _ we must know how to protect its integrity. Otherwise, the information war will be ours to lose,” Bajak said.
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger said of Bajak: “Under his leadership, the AP continues to hold national leaders accountable, while explaining how their deeds and misdeeds affect the United States”.
Also honoured were Tracy Wilkinson, Mexico bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times; Paco Calderon, cartoonist for the Reform Group; and Giannina Segnini, until recently the editor of the investigating team of La Nacion in Costa Rica. A special citation was given to investigative journalists Tamoa Calzadilla and Laura Weffer for work they did at Ultimas Noticias of Venezuela.
The winners spoke of the need to fight against censorship and oppression in addition to defending the freedom of expression.
Calderon spoke of the importance of humour. When he was working for the now defunct newspaper El Heraldo de Mexico, he caricatured then Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo as Snoopy after the leader said publicly that he would defend the peso “like a dog,” only to see the currency plummet. Calderon lost his job because of the drawing.
The Cabot Prize was founded in 1938 and is the oldest award in international journalism. The winners receive a medal and $5,000 each.
The Associated Press