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Mexican journalist honored for reporting vows to never be silenced

© 2017 AFP

27 October 2017

A Mexican journalist recognized for his undaunted reporting vowed to never be silenced Thursday despite living in one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters.

Marcos Vizcarra, who lives and works in Mexico's violent northwestern state of Sinaloa, accepted the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism for his coverage for the newspaper Noroeste on corruption, violence and human rights abuses.

"I believe that this award gives me a lot of responsibility," the 29-year-old told a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, speaking of the prize co-sponsored by Reporters Without Borders and Agence France-Presse.

"We will not be quieted."

Vizcarra paid homage to the 11 journalists killed in Mexico this year and dozens more who died in recent years trying to report in the face of rampant corruption and violence.

"The 11 deaths this year proves that journalism is a high-risk job," he said. "It is a profession of the brave, of people who love peace."

Vizcarra has focused his research and writing on the enforced disappearances of Mexican civilians, including the government's failure to address the problem in a meaningful way.

He said it is challenging to continue objective reporting in an environment where journalists can face daily threats.

"The government and the criminals have tried to pay us off," he said.

But he added that "there are also those who are doing responsible journalism" despite the challenges.

"We do it because it's necessary. Because doing better journalism means having a better society."

The state where he lives is the scene of a major power struggle for leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, following last year's capture of its leader Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman.

Vizcarra has investigated cases of alleged torture committed by state officials, collusion with drug cartels and the disappearances of civilians.

The state was also the scene of the killing of veteran crime reporter Javier Valdez, a longtime AFP contributor, shot a dozen times in broad daylight outside the offices of weekly newspaper Riodoce in May.

Award project director Camille Mackler said Vizcarra "is a rising voice for unrestricted access to truth in a part of the world known for frequent use of violence to silence journalists."

She added in a statement: "In today's world, more than ever, we need journalists like Mr. Vizcarra, who are willing to stand up to governments and criminals and uphold principles of ethical journalism."

The prize was created in 2008 to honor the memory of longtime AFP journalist Peter Mackler, who died of a heart attack that year at the age of 58.

Previous recipients have been honored for reported in Burundi, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan, Kazakhstan, Honduras, Russia and Sri Lanka.