Female Journalists to Be Awarded
By MORGAN LEE, AP
11 hours ago
MEXICO CITY —
She set out to expose a pedophile ring in Cancun, naming the rich and powerful she says were involved, and became a journalism sensation after she was abducted by police, allegedly at the behest of a state governor.
Lydia Cacho peered into Cancun's underworld and came up with a stinging indictment not only of the alleged abusers, but of powerful friends and politicians she says did little or nothing to stop a prominent businessman accused of luring poor girls in the Caribbean resort to his home so that he and his friends could have sex with them.
Two years after the publication of her book "The Demons of Eden" in Mexico, Cacho's fight against those who would silence her is now before Mexico's Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, she collects a Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation in New York _ a tribute to her bravery in reporting on women's and children's rights.
Courage in Journalism Awards are also going to Serkalem Fasil, of Ethiopia, and six Iraqi women journalists of McClatchy's Baghdad bureau: Huda Ahmed, Shatha al Awsy, Sahar Issa, Alaa Majeed, Zaineb Obeid and Ban Adil Sarhan.
Fasil was jailed for her work at a newspaper that published articles critical of the Ethiopian government during May 2005 elections and gave birth to a child before her release in April. The McClatchy winners work in the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, where they and their families have been targeted for their work.
Cacho, 44, who also writes for a women's news service and Dia Siete magazine, says her profession is under assault across much of Mexico, where the media face intimidation and violence from organized crime and pressure from political kingpins.
In "The Demons of Eden," Cacho chronicled the exploits of Cancun businessman Jean Succar Kuri, who awaits trial on charges of child pornography and child sexual abuse after being extradited from the U.S. after his arrest during a traffic stop in Arizona in 2004. Succar Kuri has denied the charges.
The case became a sensation with the release of audio tapes featuring Puebla state Gov. Mario Marin and a businessman plotting the jailing of Cacho, who was whisked away from Cancun in December 2005 by a caravan of out-of-state police without explanation and verbally abused as she was driven to a prison 900 miles away. She later was charged with libel and released on bail the day after her arrest.
Mexicans were outraged by the secretive, backslapping conversations between the governor and Puebla businessman about silencing a whistle blower.
Since then, libel charges have been dismissed, and the Supreme Court has intervened to investigate Cacho's accusations against Marin and other top state officials for abuse of power, influence peddling and violating her human rights.
Cacho hopes the Supreme Court will open the door for Congress to strip Marin of the legal immunity he enjoys as governor.
The Inter American Press Association says Mexico has become one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists. At least seven journalists have been killed across the country in the last year.
"It's having an arctic chilling effect on small papers in drug infested areas," said George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
Analysts say Cacho's case played a role in the decision to wipe criminal penalties for defamation from the books and make it a civil offense only.
Cacho says her book became a gut-wrenching trade-off.
"It's a paradox," she said. "It's a book that nearly cost me my life and suddenly it's allowed me to also put certain subjects on the table and the doors have opened for me."
“A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.”
-Marge Piercy (American novelist, essayist, and poet)