A George Polk Award for Regina Martínez and the Cartel Project

Help us keep stories alive

The Cartel Project investigation, along with late Proceso journalist Regina Martínez whose work was continued through the collaboration, has been honored with the 2020 George Polk Special Award, Long Island University (LIU) announced today.

The George Polk Award rewards the outstanding collaboration of 60 journalists from 25 news organizations* and 18 countries, who teamed up over the course of 10 months to pursue the stories of their assassinated Mexican colleagues.

This series of investigations, coordinated by Forbidden Stories and simultaneously published worldwide last December, uncovered Mexican cartels’ international connections. The project appeared on the front page of The Washington Post, The Guardian Weekly, Le Monde and Süddeutsche Zeitung, among others.

“The Polk Award strengthens our belief that collaboration is the best protection against impunity,” Forbidden Stories’ director Laurent Richard said.

Laurent Richard, Forbidden Stories' director.

Awarding this prize to Regina Martínez, nine years after her murder, sends out a very strong message in support of Mexican journalists who are facing the worst kinds of dangers. Killing the journalist definitely doesn’t kill the story.

“The Cartel Project succeeded in bringing together the diverse backgrounds and work cultures of our partners — the driving force in this series of impactful investigations,” Forbidden Stories’ editor-in-chief Sandrine Rigaud added.

Long Island University has given out the prestigious George Polk Awards annually for the past 73 years, focusing on “the intrepid, bold, and influential work of the reporters themselves, placing a premium on investigative work that is original, resourceful, and thought-provoking.” These awards memorialize George Polk, a CBS correspondent who was killed while covering the Greek civil war in 1948.

“Forbidden Stories reporters interviewed sources who had never spoken on-the-record, revealing how local authorities sabotaged the investigation into Martinez’s death and put a scapegoat behind bars without proof — a tactic similar to one used by the Greek government in the aftermath of George Polk’s murder,” Long Island University announced.

Other winners of the 2020 Polk Awards include CNN, The Atlantic, ProPublica, The Washington Post, STAT, the San Francisco Chronicle, the California Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker, the Star Tribune, VICE, BuzzFeed News, High Country News and The New York Times.

Long Island University Board of Trustees Chair Eric Krasnoff stated, “Honest and independent reporting is our best hope to nurture and sustain an equitable democratic society.”


*The 25 news organization partners of the Cartel Project:

The Washington Post, Le Monde, France TV, Radio France, The Star, The Guardian, Proceso, OCCRP, Le Soir, Knack, South China Morning Post, Süddeutsche Zeitung, WDR, NDR, Die Zeit, Lede, Haaretz/ TheMarker, IRPI, Daraj, Proceso, El Pais, Prensa, Expresso, Radio Télévision Suisse, SVT, De Volkskrant.

More about the Cartel Project


The more you donate,
the more investigations we will complete.

Forbidden Stories is a non-profit project which relies on charitable foundations and on financial support from the public.


They support us

Maria Ressa

2021 Nobel Peace Prize

“All they want in killing a journalist, or in attacking a journalist, is to stop the story.”

Can Dündar

Former editor of the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet

It will send a very clear message to oppressive governments that if they touch a journalist anywhere in the world, many others will be ready to support and follow up their story.”

Khadija Ismayilova

Azerbajani investigative journalist

“What you are suggesting is creating a newsroom for journalists who have no press freedom. You will get fantastic stories.

Matthew Caruana Galizia

Maltese journalist, son of slain reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia

“We couldn’t allow our mother’s stories to die with her. They were too important. For them to be forgotten would have been like killing her twice.

Fabrice Arfi

Mediapart‘s head of investigations

The finest project of investigative journalism, in solidarity against censorship.

Sandhya Ravishankar

Indian journalist

“Now I know that Forbidden Stories will always have my back.”

Bastian Obermayer

2017 Pulitzer Prize winner

“Even if Forbidden Stories rescues just a handful of investigations that fall into a sort of limbo each time a journalist is jailed or killed, it will already be a great victory for citizens.”

Marina Walker

Executive editor at Pulitzer Center

“By working together, journalists can make it harder for censorship to win. We’re proud to support Forbidden Stories.”