Journalist Carmen Aristegui, who has spent 20 years exposing government corruption in Mexico, has been named the 2018 winner of the John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award for Press Freedom by the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Aristegui will be honored on Friday, Oct. 12, at a public reception and dinner on the UA campus.
In Mexico, where nearly 100 journalists have been murdered or have disappeared in the past decade, Aristegui has reported as a radio host and as the anchor of a show on CNN en Español. She put pressure on the nation's elite when her website, Aristegui Noticias, reported an alleged conflict of interest involving the wife of President Enrique Peña Nieto and a government contractor in the purchase of a $7 million house. As a result, she and her son are believed to have been targeted by spyware.
In 2015, she was fired by MVS Radio for helping launch MexicoLeaks, an online platform modeled after Wikileaks that encourages citizens to anonymously post documents of public interest and expose government and corporate misconduct.
UA School of Journalism director David Cuillier told Aristegui: "Your decades-long work in journalism, particularly as an intrepid and tireless investigator of government malfeasance, makes you deserving of this award. Our faculty was particularly struck by the way you have continued to inform the public about corruption on all levels of government and how you have not relented, despite having been fired several times and after you and your son were spied upon.
"In addition, you continue to denounce the current lack of freedom of expression in Mexico.… That is what journalism is all about."
Since 1954, the Zenger Award has honored those who have made extraordinary contributions to press freedom and the people's right to know around the world, including the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Rocío Gallegos Rodriguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto of El Diario de Juarez, Kathy Gannon from The Associated Press, Tom Arviso from the Navajo Times, and most recently Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times.
"For me, it is a source of pride that the jury of the prestigious Zenger Award has decided to recognize the work of a Mexican journalist for its 2018 edition," Aristegui said. "The history of this important prize has been a great encouragement and incentive for the work of journalists and a fundamental impetus for the exercise of freedom of expression in the world."
Fortune magazine named Aristegui as one of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders in 2017. She received the Mexican Press Club's National Award in 2001, 2002 and 2004, and in 2003 she was recognized as the Best National Anchor and presented with a Public Image Award. Aristegui was named 2004 Woman of the Year by Mont Blanc and was selected to carry the Olympic torch through Mexico as part of its global journey to Athens, Greece, that same year.
Aristegui, 54, was born in Mexico City and graduated from Mexico's Universidad Autónoma with a degree in communication sciences.