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“We are here for you,” introductory remarks by Camille Mackler

Camille Mackler addresses PM Award ceremony at the National Press Club, Washington DC, Oct. 26, 2017 Credit: Jose Galvez/Double R Productions

Camille Mackler addresses PM Award ceremony at the National Press Club, Washington DC, Oct. 26, 2017 Credit: Jose Galvez/Double R Productions

National Press Club, Washington DC, October 26, 2017 – Good evening – for those of you who are joining us for the first time tonight, my name is Camille Mackler. I am the project director for the Peter Mackler Award and Peter’s eldest daughter, and on behalf of my family and the ever growing Peter Mackler Award family I want to thank you all for being here tonight. When I was trying to think about how I wanted to welcome you all here tonight, I started by thinking about how long we had been doing this. We have been doing this nine years.

For those of you who don’t know the story of this award, my father died very suddenly and we were asked as a family where we wanted donations to be made in his name. We chose Reporters Without Borders, whose mission my father supported, and those donations were so generous – you all gave so much – that we decided to do this every year. So that’s how the Peter Mackler Award was started. And over those nine years – so much has changed.

We have met some pretty incredible people along the way: The journalists we have recognized, those they brought with them, those of you who come here faithfully every year. At the same time, the world has changed. A lot. Over the nine years we have recognized journalists from every corner of the world. From Asia, to South Asia, to Africa, to the Middle East, to Latin America. Today, one of those winners, Zaina Erhaim from Syria, would be subject to much more scrutiny if she was to come visit the United States. If our government has its way, two of them, Faisal Mohamed Salih from Sudan and Asma Shirazi of Pakistan will never be able to come back to this country. We have seen a rise in populism. We have seen an unheard number of people be displaced around the world. We have seen conflicts in places that we always expected them to, and conflicts in places where we never thought they would grow.

Through that, what has remained faithful is true brave and courageous journalists, who have put everything on the line: their personal safety, their wellbeing, that of their family’s to tell us the truth. To make sure that we know what is happening in the world so that we as people can react the way we need to. They have done this selflessly and I have met them over and over again, every year. And every year at the same time, when we bring one of those journalists here to DC they get to meet with representatives of our government, they get to meet with all of you and answer questions, they get to meet with journalisms students here in DC and up in New York. Every year they tell us the same thing: “Thank you for paying attention. Thank you for letting us know that you noticed. Thank you for reminding us that somebody else cared.”

So thank you all for being here today. And I especially want to thank Marcos Vizcarra. When we were looking for who to recognize this year – and it is always, by the way, a terrible difficult choice. No person that is ever submitted to us is a clear non-winner of the Peter Mackler Award. So it’s always very hard to find that one person that has that one little extra thing that justifies our choice. There were many things that made us choose Marcos this year. Of course the situation in Mexico – one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists and a neighbor of this country, one that many of us know and go to frequently and hear about. One that is so embroiled in our national politics and our national identity here in the United States. We are also always looking for that little thing, that little quality that our father would have appreciated. The guts to tell the truth, the desire to teach others to do the same, a certain defiance for rules and stubbornness in getting the job done.

Marcos is someone who has shown those qualities and more. He has shown integrity and courage in fighting back in one of the most difficult and dangerous regions in the world. He is from Sinaloa, a state in Mexico that is riddled by drug cartels – you may know it because of (drug lord) Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, but as Marcos will tell you there is a lot more to Sinaloa than El Chapo. And he has taken the mantle for his colleague Javier Valdez who was murdered in the street in broad daylight, and yet no one has been arrested for it yet. He has taken on the mantle of finding the truth, not only in that but also in holding his local government and the Mexican government to higher standards to find out what happened not only on that day, but every day in his region in his part of the world.

This is truly a family – you will get a Thanksgiving invitation, you may be brought in to solve an argument or two – But with all that comes what it means to be part of a family. We welcome you. We are here for you. You will never stop hearing from us ever again. Welcome Marcos to the Peter Mackler Award family, and congratulations.