Anabel Hernández, a Mexican journalist and writer known for her investigative reporting on corruption and the abuse of power in Mexican politics, has been awarded the 2012 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
Ms. Hernández, who has worked on national dailies including Reforma, Milenio, El Universal and its investigative supplement La Revista (now emeequis), currently contributes to the online news site Reporte Indigo. Her most recent book, Los Señores del Narco / The Drug Traffickers (2010), details the complicities between organised crime and high-level authorities, from government officials to the police, the military and the business community. She has received numerous death threats after the book's publication.
In making the award, the Board of WAN-IFRA, meeting in Dubai, said: "Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with violence and impunity remaining major challenges in terms of press freedom. In making this award, WAN-IFRA recognises the strong stance Ms. Hernández has taken, at great personal risk, against drug cartels. Her actions help ensure the development of good, unrestricted investigative journalism in the region.
"The award also sends a clear message to the Mexican government that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which citizens are able to exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of violence. The authorities clearly need to do more to ensure the protection of journalists and to end the impunity that surrounds those who believe killing journalists will silence the freedom of the press."
In a 2011 interview she gave to Quien Resulte Responsable TV, Ms. Hernández said she was driven to focus on investigative journalism after the kidnapping and murder of her father in December 2000, in Mexico City. Police investigators told the family that they were only willing to investigate the crime if the family paid them.
"Corruption grows through silence," she has said. "If journalists of my generation keep silent, if we give up to our work for fear or complicity, journalists after us will be condemned to kneel to this corruption. I hope I will live... and see that that never happens."
The rise of the Mexican drug cartels and the subsequent war against them has plunged Mexico into one of the darkest periods of its contemporary history, with a wave of violence that has cost the lives of more than 50,000 people in just five years.
The effects on the media have been equally devastating, with at least 30 media professionals killed since the start of the government's offensive. A news blackout affects several regions in the north of the country as drug cartels - the de facto authority in many areas - rarely hesitate when it comes to physically silencing investigative reporters.
More on the Golden Pen of Freedom can be found here.