Monica Gonzalez, a Chilean journalist under attack by the regime of General Augusto Pinochet for her interviews with opposition leaders and her investigations of government officials, including Pinochet himself, has won the 1988 Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism, the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University announced.
A committee of the 20 members of the 1988 Class of Nieman Fellows chose Gonzalez, 38, for the award, which is named in honor of former Nieman curator Louis M. Lyons The award is in recognition of Gonzalez’s courage in reporting objectively and honestly on events in Chile, despite attempts by the regime to silence her.
“Her bold journalism has attracted the admiration of her peers in Santiago and the fury of General Pinochet’s regime,” wrote former Nieman Fellow Mary Lou Finlay (Class of 1986) in nominating Gonzalez for the award. “It has also led to her being charged with defaming the president of the republic. When she was in jail, Gonzalez interviewed other political prisoners, and she published their stories when she was released on bail last November.”
Gonzalez currently writes for the opposition magazine Analisis, and previously reported for the journal Cauce. She is the second journalist associated with Analisis to win the Lyons Award. In 1984, the award was presented to Maria Olivia Moenckeberg for her reporting in the face of official harassment.
Gonzalez was jailed for several weeks last year for publishing an interview with an opposition politician whose remarks were critical of the regime. Instead of beginning legal action against the politician, the government went after Gonzalez, and although she is currently free the case remains active.
She is known as one of the leading investigative reporters in Chile-a dangerous occupation given the Pinochet regime’s efforts to clamp down on free expression. Gonzalez has published an account by a former security agent of crimes he committed for the regime, a description of a lavish estate owned by Pinochet, and many other articles that the regime has found embarrassing or inconvenient.
“The Chilean regime allows a measure of expression, but in ways subtle and overt tries to cow journalists into hewing close to the official line,” said Eugene Rcbinson, chairman of this year’s Lyons Award Committee. “Monica Gonzalez is one of the best known of the many journalists in Chile who daily risk liberty and livelihood to print the truth. That the government would seek to prosecute her is indicative of its attitude toward the press, and also of her effectiveness and courage.”