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Investigative journalism award goes to journalists from Brazil and Costa Rica

Series of articles revealed public sector corruption and illicit accounts held by the Catholic Church

Two series of articles exposing public sector corruption in Brazil and illicit accounts managed by the Catholic church in Costa Rica are the winners of the 2009 Prize to the Best Journalistic Investigation of a Case of Corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean, awarded annually by Transparency International and the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS).

The US $25,000 prize will be shared by Daniela Arbex, Táscia Souza and Ricardo Miranda, a reporting team from the Brazilian daily Tribunas do Minas; and Ernesto Rivera and Giannina Segnini from La Nación in Costa Rica. The two winning stories were selected from among 189 entries from 19 countries.

Arbex, Souza and Miranda investigated a complex web of corruption that granted public contracts to a major construction company which was owned by a powerful municipal official in Minas Gerais, a state in southeast Brazil.

The series published by Rivera y Segnini followed an extensive trail of illegal financial dealings in several countries carried out by officials of the Catholic church in Costa Rica.

Both investigations made a decisive impact, as the implicated individuals resigned from their positions and were brought before the court.

According to Ricardo Uceda, executive director of the IPYS, it is the first time that the award has been granted to journalists from a rural newspaper, as is the case with Brazilian newspaper Tribunas do Minas.

“This year’s award shows that investigative excellence is not necessarily achieved with large amounts of funding” said Uceda.

“These investigations open doors, changing a culture of secrecy into a climate of accountability that not only helps to prevent corruption but nurtures a demand for transparency among citizens” said Alejandro Salas, regional director for the Americas in TI.

The jury awarded the second place prize of US $5,000 to Santiago Fascetto from the daily La Prensa of Panama, for revealing irregular payments made to the former president of the country, Martín Torrijos, as a result of a secret contract made with the government of the Dominican Republic.

The third prize, also US $5,000, was given to Jorge Antonio Ávalos, from El Diario de Hoy of El Salvador, for his series “Polémica Récord”. The articles covered the false allegations of environmental damage made against a battery recycling factory.

Ten other works from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela received special mentions (more information, in Spanish).

In the past seven years, the pieces presented have mainly covered investigations of corruption in the public sector (53.8 per cent), whereas organised crime and financial matters were exposed in 8 and 2.6 per cent, respectively, of all submitted works.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have shown a high rate of applications throughout the history of the prize.

Note to editors:

The yearly IPYS/TI prize honours journalists who, through their investigations, demonstrate the causes and effects of corruption while increasing awareness about the problem. The award consists of a first prize of US $25,000 and US $5,000 for the first and second runners-up. It is sponsored by the Open Society Institute, and the submitted works are judged by a jury consisting of Tina Rosenberg (The New York Times), Mike Reid (The Economist), Marcelo Beraba (Folha de S. Paulo), Gustavo Gorriti (Caretas) and Gerardo Reyes (El Nuevo Herald).

For any press enquiries please contact

Instituto Prensa y Sociedad
Ricardo Uceda, Director Ejecutivo

T: +511 247 3308
E: [email protected]

Transparency International
Gypsy Guillén Kaiser

T: +49 30 343820 662
E: [email protected]