Chilean journalist tortured under dictatorship wins UN press freedom prize

13 April 2010

A Chilean journalist whose investigative reporting led to her torture by the country’s military dictatorship 25 years ago today won a United Nations prize that honours those promoting freedom of expression, especially at the risk of their own lives.

Mónica González Mujica was declared laureate of the 2010 UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, named in memory of a Colombian newspaper publisher murdered in 1987 for denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country.

“Mónica González Mujica has undergone years of hardship defending freedom of expression, one of the core values UNESCO was created to uphold. She now shows equal commitment to education, which is another main priority of our Organization,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said.

Born in 1949, Ms. González spent four years in exile following the military coup of 1973. She returned in 1978 to Chile, where harassment from the secret services made her lose jobs repeatedly as she investigated human rights violations as well as the financial doings of the coup leader, General Augusto Pinochet, and his family.

She was imprisoned and tortured from 1984 to 1985 for this work. Yet, upon her release she went back to investigative reporting, publishing articles and books about the abuses of the military dictatorship. She was detained again and numerous court cases were brought against her.

Since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, she has continued working as a newspaper editor and journalist. She has been directing the Centre of Journalism and Investigation in Santiago, the capital, since 2007, while conducting workshops on investigative journalism at home and abroad.

Ms. González was recommended by an international jury of 12 professional journalists from all over the world.

“Throughout her professional life, Mónica González Mujica has shown courage in shining the light on the dark side of Chile,” the president of the jury, Joe Thloloe, Press Ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa, said. “She has embodied the very spirit of the Award. She has been jailed, tortured, hauled before the courts but has remained steadfast.

“Ms. González is now ploughing her experience back to the younger generation through her work at the Centre of Journalism and Investigation and her workshops on investigative journalism in various countries.”

Ms. Bokova will present the $25,000 Prize to Ms. González in a ceremony on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, which UNESCO will celebrate this year in Brisbane, Australia.

Created in 1997 by UNESCO’s Executive Board, and financed by the Cano and Ottaway family foundations and by JP/Politiken Newspaper LTD, the prize is awarded annually to honour the work of an individual or an organization defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this action puts the individual’s life at risk. Candidates are proposed by UNESCO Member States and regional or international organizations that defend and promote freedom of expression.

 

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