Maria Jimena Duzan | 1990 Courage in Journalism Award

El Espectador, Colombia.

Duzan was threatened with death dozens of times, and El Espectador, where she worked as chief investigator, was targeted as well. The paper was bombed and many of its employees were killed or forced into exile, but the “unblinking coverage” of Colombia’s powerful and violent cocaine cartels continued. Duzan’s sister, also a journalist, was gunned down while working on a story about drug trafficking and paramilitary squads.

Her reporting and that of her investigative team detailed and penetrated the cooperation among rightist landowners, the military, and drug bosses that developed in the mid-1980s. During that time, the drug bosses were very powerful, killing thousands of government officials, labor organizers, politicians and journalists with “self-defense groups”.

She wrote in her column:” It is incredible that a newspaper, which has no other arms than the words it prints, has been able to become such a strong enemy of narco-trafficking that they would want to destroy it at all cost.”

In March 1989, she was honored by the Alliance des Femmes International on the occasion of the International Day of Women and was given an award by Danielle Mitterand, the wife of the then French President.

In 1994, Duzan released her autobiography, “Death Beat: A Colombian Journalist’s Life Inside the Cocaine Wars.” She served on the IWMF board of directors from 1993 to 1998 and continues to write, appear on radio programs, and teach journalism in Bogota.

Maria Jimena Duzan is the first Courage in Journalism Award winner from Colombia, followed by Jineth Bedoya Lima (2001) and Claudia Julieta Duque (2010).

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Journalists in the front lines of Colombia’s cocaine war | New York Times profile
Jineth Bedoya Lima, Colombia | 2001 Courage in Journalism Award
Claudia Julieta Duque, Colombia | 2010 Courage in Journalism Award

Duzan/Piere-Paul/IchimMaria Jimena Duzan (left) with fellow 1990 Courage Awardees Lilianne Pierre-Paul (middle) and Florica Ichim (right)>