Nicaragua’s most respected journalist has won journalism’s most coveted award. Carlos Fernando Chamorro, son of legendary former newspaper publisher Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, has been named one of four winners of the 2010 Maria Moors Cabot prize, awarded each year to the top journalists in the hemisphere by ColumbiaUniversity’s School of Journalism.
Chamorro, director of the TV news shows Esta Semana and Esta Noche, as well as the newsletter Confidencial, was a former editor at the official Sandinista newspaper Barricada in the 1980s. He later split with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and is now a leading critic of President Daniel Ortega, whom he accuses of driving Nicaragua towards dictatorship.
Chamorro, 54, has gotten in trouble for his criticism. In October 2008, the government raided his office with police and confiscated computers and documents on charges that were later dropped. Chamorro accused the Ortega government of trying to “fabricate political crimes” against him for his criticism of the administration. He said only “dictatorial and fascist regimes” attempt such stunts (NT, Oct. 17, 2008).
Then, when Ortega’s inner circle purchased Channel 8 TV earlier this year, Chamorro decided to go off the air, saying, “Today, I ratify my position in front of Nicaraguan society that I don’t want to be a partner or collaborator with Mr. Ortega, either directly or indirectly, in any of his economic or political businesses that seek to help him clean his authoritarian image” (NT, Jan. 29).
Chamorro’s steadfast journalistic principles and integrity have earned him the respect of Nicaraguan viewers, who consistently make his programs the leading voice in national news. And now it has also earned him the top award in international journalism.
In a statement on his July 20 program of Esta Noche, Chamorro said the award is particularly meaningful to him because his father won the same award in 1977, shortly before being gunned down by unknown agents, thought to have been sent by the dictator Anastasio Somoza.
Chamorro said his father has been his “most admired example” and the “principal source of inspiration and moral strength throughout my life.”
Chamorro said he felt “overwhelmed” to be given the same award as his father. He said the award will oblige him to work even harder to honor the memory of his father.
“This is a recognition that is also given to all independent journalism in our country, because it is being given at a time when independent and critical journalism in Nicaragua is under threat and hostilities from the government, which is trying to impose its authoritarian project,” said Chamorro.
Chamorro also congratulated the other three journalists who were awarded the Maria Moors Cabot award for 2010: Tyler Bridges, a U.S. freelancer in Perú; Joaquim Ibarz, a Spanish correspondent in Mexico; and U.S. reporter Norman Gall in Brazil.
The Maria Moors Cabot prize has been awarded out since 1939. It is the oldest international award in journalism.
In 1985 the Maria Moors Cabot prize was given to The Tico Times’ founding publisher Richard Dyer and his daughter Dery Dyer, who was editor and is now the publisher of the family-owned newspaper.