A Chilean journalist known for her staunch defence of freedom of expression has been awarded the 2010 World Press Freedom Prize.
“Throughout her professional life, Mónica González Mujica has shown courage in shining the light on the dark side of Chile,” said Joe Thloloe, the head of the jury that awards the prize. Thloloe is press ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa.
“She embodies the very spirit of the award. She has been jailed, tortured, hauled before the courts, but has remained steadfast… González is now ploughing her experience back to the younger generation through her work at the Center of Journalism and Investigation and her workshops on investigative journalism in various countries.”
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova endorsed the recommendation made by the 12 member jury of world journalists. “Mónica González Mujica has undergone years of hardship defending freedom of expression, one of the core values UNESCO was created to uphold,” Bokova said. “She now shows equal commitment to education, which is another main priority of our organization.”
Bokova will present the Prize to González in a ceremony on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.
González spent four years in exile following the military coup of 1973. She returned to Chile in 1978 where harassment from the secret services made her lose jobs repeatedly.
As a journalist, she investigated human rights violations as well as the financial doings of General Pinochet and his family. González was imprisoned and tortured from 1984 to 1985 for her work, but returned to investigative reporting after her release, 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, González has continued working as a newspaper editor and journalist. She currently is the director of the Center of Journalism and Investigation (CIPER) since 2007, and conducts workshops on investigative journalism in Chile and abroad.
Created in 1997 by UN-body UNESCO, the Press Freedom Prize annually awards US$25,000 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. Most recent winners were from Sri Lanka, Mexico, Russia and Lebanon.
By Elizabeth Osborne – Santiago Times