2015 International Investigative Reporting Fellows
American University communication Ph.D. student Kara Andrade and graduating journalism major Julia Boccagno have been named 2015 recipients of the Pulitzer Center Campus Consortium International Reporting Student Fellowship. Andrade's reporting project will investigate the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Mexico for transparency, activism and citizen reporting, as well as the increased risks this presents to citizens. Boccagno's work will explore the marginalization of the transgender community in Thailand.
Photo by Bill Gentile.
Kara Andrade is a PhD student at American University's School of Communication. She is a researcher, journalist and entrepreneur who focuses on Latin America, media, technology and society. She has more than ten years of experience working in the United States and Latin America as a bilingual journalist, entrepreneur and multimedia producer for many leading media organizations.
During the fellowship Kara will investigate the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Mexico for transparency, activism and citizen reporting, as well as the increased risk this presents to citizens. She will focus on the specific uses of ICTs and websites such as Méxicoleaks, Por Esto Quintana Roo, and the use of social media by Ayotzinapa’s 43 disappeared students movement to create accountability during Mexico’s electoral cycle.
While these new technologies are giving local citizens new ways to share tips, stories and information about corruption, their use does not come without its risks. In the past few years many citizen reporters have been targeted and murdered for expressing themselves on social media. The most recent one was the death of María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio, a doctor and citizen journalist, who covered organized crime on Twitter by publishing violent incidents that happened in Tamaulipas. Her research will also address the use of the Internet by the Mexican religious community to counteract the rampant violence in Guerrero and the attacks on priests. While many priests use the Internet for current events, for finding data and for research/study purposes, Kara is interested in exploring the ways priests are using ICTs and social media to create awareness, to organize marches and to increase accountability.
Kara’s investigation will be published in a series of articles. The topics will include the current uses and examples of technology for transparency and accountability as it pertains to the election; an analysis of the risks associated with the use of tools in the context of current Internet policies; and the future uses and impacts of these ICTs on freedom of expression in Mexico.
Photo by Bill Gentile.
Julia Boccagno's innate inquisitiveness and curiosity inspired her to pursue a major in broadcast journalism and a double minor in international studies and Italian at American University. She hopes to use her expertise in these fields to investigate and report global development and human rights issues to mass audiences through multimedia platforms. Exploring unfamiliar areas of the world have allowed her to appreciate the complexities of the human experience and of the world. She has found that journalism also serves as a tool of unity--one that discourages from passing judgment on others. She will receive her undergraduate degree in May 2015.
Julia will explore the marginalization of the transgender community in Thailand. Though depicted as the "Land of One Thousand Smiles," Thailand has falsely created an image as one of the world's most inclusive countries for the LGBTQ community, exemplified by two notable trends. First, the country leads in the world in the number of sexual reassignment surgeries. Second, the military junta recently proposed a law that would make gender discrimination illegal.
However, there exists an interesting dichotomy. Thailand isolates "kathoeys" ("lady boys") from mainstream society, forcing them to work in degrading industries, denying them benefits, and limiting their access to public facilities. By taking a multidisciplinary approach—one that takes into account social, religious and legal perspectives—Julia will not only be able to culturally contextualize the norms that have cultivated Thai society's attitudes toward the "lady boys," but will also allow her to extend the gender equality conversation beyond that of an Americanized scope.