Probe of Mexico mass graves wins Breach-Valdez journalism prize

Mexico City (AFP) –


A team of seven journalists who wrote a series of investigative reports on the thousands of missing persons buried in clandestine graves across Mexico won the Breach-Valdez Prize in journalism and human rights Friday.

Launched last year, the prize honors journalists who risk their lives to cover human rights abuses in Mexico, following in the footsteps of two acclaimed Mexican colleagues murdered in 2017: Miroslava Breach and Javier Valdez.

It is sponsored by the United Nations, Agence France-Presse (AFP), the French and Swiss embassies in Mexico, and the Ibero-American University, who named a jury of distinguished journalists and activists to choose the winners.

The winning piece is an interactive website called "The country of 2,000 graves," which includes a map, photographs and stories tracing the explosion of clandestine graves discovered in Mexico since 2006.

That is the year the Mexican government declared war on drug cartels, which have fought back with a vengeance.

The seven winners are Alejandra Guillen, 36; Mago Torres, 41; Marcela Turati, 45; David Eads, 39; Erika Lozano, 27; Paloma Robles, 32; and Aranzazu Ayala, 29.

They worked with 15 collaborators for more than a year and a half on the project.

One of the goals of the project, said Turati, is to help the relatives of Mexico's more than 40,000 missing persons, "so that they can go to the authorities and say, 'You deny that this grave exists, but it's there, and my loved one might be buried there.'"

The Mexican government says more than 1,100 clandestine graves have been found in the country in the past decade. The journalists say there are even more.

Since the government deployed the army to fight drug trafficking in 2006, more than 250,000 people have been murdered in Mexico.

The country is also the most dangerous in the world for journalists, after war-torn Syria and Afghanistan, according to watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

More than 100 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000. The latest killing, of community radio journalist Telesforo Santiago Enriquez, was confirmed Friday, on World Press Freedom Day.

The winning piece can be viewed at: