On February 8, 2022, Mariana Palau joined the Pulitzer Center to discuss her 2021 Breakthrough Journalism Award win.
Palau talked about the award's impact as well as Colombia: After the Peace Deal, her Pulitzer Center-supported project that paved the way for her win. She produced several stories for the project, including "The ‘False Positives’ Scandal that Felled Colombia’s Military Hero," published for Guardian's Long Reads.
Applications for the next round of the Breakthrough Journalism Award are due March 1, 2022.
The Pulitzer Center's Breakthrough Journalism Award, made possible by the support of donor Eva Lohrer, celebrates the achievements of Pulitzer Center-affiliated freelance journalists who report on underreported issues that affect us all. The award amount for 2022 is $12,000.
Competition judges hailed Palau for her relentless pursuit of the truth and for the ability of her reporting to rekindle public debate over human rights violations in Colombia’s 52-year armed conflict. Her reporting focused on the rarely-mentioned use of extrajudicial killings by army soldiers of innocent civilians who were falsely labeled as guerrilla combatants.
Palau’s reporting for Long Reads took more than a year to complete. She reported from Bogota, where she dug up important legal documents and discussed the murders with lawyers, prosecutors, victims, government officials, and members of the army, among others.
The resulting article was widely discussed in Colombia and abroad. Within a few hours of publication, a translated Spanish version circulated among the highest-ranking generals in Colombia’s military. It was also discussed on local radio shows and by important analysts as they called for reform in Colombia’s armed forces.
Palau noted how transformational the project was for her career as a journalist and how important it was for her country.
“Knowing the truth about what happened during the conflict is essential to achieve long-lasting peace in Colombia. By reporting on the truth about the ‘false positives,’ I believe I have contributed to building peace in my country,” she said.