By Macarena Soto and Alida Juliani
Madrid, Jun 15 (EFE).- At the 40th edition of the King of Spain International Journalism Awards in Madrid on Thursday, the emphasis was on peace and the protection of democracy around the world, the event being marked by the work of journalists from Spain, Colombia and Mexico on subjects such as fentanyl, Nicaraguan exiles and migration in Latin America.
The prestigious awards are geared toward recognizing the journalistic work of professionals in the Spanish and Portuguese languages in the states making up the Ibero-American Community of Nations and the nations with which Spain maintains historical links as well as cultural and cooperative relations.
The awards have been handed out each year since 1983, when they were created by Agencia EFE, Spain’s international news agency, and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (Aecid).
Freedom of the press and expression were the other major issues highlighted at the awards ceremony held in the Casa de America’s Gabriela Mistral auditorium in Madrid, which was filled to capacity for the occasion.
Spain’s King Felipe VI presided at the ceremony and presented the awards to professional journalists Victor Emmanuel Valles Mata, Adrian Tinoco, Jesus Martinez, Marc Javierre-Kohan, Marisol Soto, Francesc Tomas, Eduardo Laplaza, Victor Nuñez, Manuel Salvador Saldarriaga and Colombia’s Cuestion Publica media outlet.
A selection of the best photographs by EFE photojournalists selected for awards over the past 40 years kicked off the awards ceremony, which was attended by figures from Spanish politics and journalism, as well as a number of ambassadors, most of them from Latin America but also including some from other countries such as India and Qatar.
EFE president Gabriela Cañas picked up the baton from Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares, who had delivered opening remarks denouncing the increase in violence against media professionals and the lack of diversity among them.
Cañas, in her address, advocated for quality journalism in the face of the emergence of new technologies that generate misinformation, hoaxes and fake news.
The king then presented bronze statuettes by Spanish sculptor Joaquin Vaqueros to the award winners, posing with each of them for official photos, many of them visibly moved and proud to be receiving the awards, valued at 10,000 euros (about $11,000) and thus on a par with Pulitzer Prizes.
Among the winners was the recipient of many such honors over his career, veteran journalist Manuel Saldarriaga – of Medellin, Colombia – whose work was recognized with his fourth King of Spain award.
In remarks to EFE, Saldarriaga admitted having dreamed of receiving the first of these awards from former King Juan Carlos I after covering a visit to Medellin by the now emeritus monarch and then later continuing to dream of receiving a few more of the coveted awards from Felipe VI.
The closing activities at the gala affair included a surprise performance by Spanish singer Beli Basarte, who put her own interpretation on John Lennon’s pacifist anthem “Imagine” to accompany the projected display of EFE photographers’ work in armed conflicts around the world.
Among the images were shots of the war in Ukraine, in which violence was clearly evident, but there were also others with a more hopeful tone as a kind of hymn to peace and stabilization in the wartorn East European nation.
Hard copies of the photographs may be seen starting this week in the Campo del Moro gardens in Madrid as part of a traveling exhibition that is slated to tour several Latin American countries.
“(Viewers) will see few politicians. They’ll see images of violence and misery but also of great beauty, generosity, empathy and humanity. Because that is also good graphic journalism,” said Cañas.
After the awards ceremony, Felipe VI met with the winners in a separate area to chat under more relaxed circumstances while the rest of the guests attended a cocktail party that the Spanish monarch and the award recipients later joined.
This 40th edition of the King of Spain Awards brings to a close another year recognizing the work of Ibero-American journalists, once again demonstrating strength and commitment to the challenges facing both the profession and democracy around the world.