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Five veteran journalists awarded Cabot prize for work in Latin America

FILE - In this May 27, 2015, file photo, Associated Press correspondent Mark Stevenson poses for a photo in Mexico City. Stevenson is among five journalists honored, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, with the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, considered the oldest prize in international journalism.  (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

FILE - In this May 27, 2015, file photo, Associated Press correspondent Mark Stevenson poses for a photo in Mexico City. Stevenson is among five journalists honored, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, with the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, considered the oldest prize in international journalism. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism honored five veteran journalists Wednesday for outstanding reporting that promoted a better understanding of the Western Hemisphere.

Mark Stevenson, an Associated Press reporter in Mexico, was one of those who received the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, considered the oldest in international journalism. A U.S. citizen, he highlighted in his acceptance speech the daily dangers faced by Mexican journalists.

"Of the 64 journalists killed in Mexico since 2000, all have been Mexicans," Stevenson said. "The Mexican press has made great strides in recent decades, but they can't do their jobs if they're worried about being killed." He said he would donate his $5,000 prize to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The other winners were Raúl Penaranda, founder of Pagina Siete in Bolivia; Simon Romero, reporter for the New York Times; and Lucas Mendes, host and executive editor of a program of GloboNews in Brazil. Ernesto Londoño of the New York Times received a special citation for a series of editorials about relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

When Columbia announced the winners in August, it said Stevenson had ventured into some of the most remote and dangerous parts of Mexico during more than two decades of reporting on the country.

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Last year, Stevenson investigated the killing by soldiers of 22 suspected gang members in a community about 95 miles southwest of Mexico City. 

The army reported that only one soldier was wounded in what it said was a gun battle. But rather than the firefight described by authorities, Stevenson found evidence that suspects had been shot against a wall. 

Following his stories, several soldiers were charged in the case, and Mexico's human rights commission said in a report that 15 of the dead had probably been killed after surrendering.

Penaranda was honored for his entrepreneurial spirit and his fight against abuse of power and the concentration of media outlets on the part of Bolivian President Evo Morales. Romero was described as a journalist capable of explaining big problems through small chronicles from remote places. Mendes was honored for a successful career in Brazilian television.

The Cabot Prize was founded in 1938.

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