Carlos Raúl Kestler is a 23-year-old journalist from Guatemala. He is a finalist in Thomson Foundation’s Young Journalist Award 2022.
Every time a tyre treads over a pothole, Guatemala loses money, says Carlos. That is the main idea behind his investigation Broken Connectivity, a series of three multimedia reports highlighting how the deterioration of the road network damages tourism, social development and commerce in his home country.
“I chose to pursue these stories after a group session we had in our newsroom,” he says. “We realised that everybody knows that the road network is not the best, but no one has taken the time to travel the whole country to show this problem.”
Carlos and his team spent four months traveling around Guatemala to investigate the condition of the roads and highways, and to hear the real-world impact of poor roads from the people who rely on these networks for every kind of connection.
“I think I faced two main challenges producing these stories. The first one is that I didn't know anything about the topic while I was working on it. I had to learn most of the stuff during the four months we took to produce the stories,” explains Carlos. “And the second one is that I had to confront the Guatemalan authorities, and often they denied the access to the information they hide. And it seems that they don't want to give explanations to the journalists and to the people of the problems that are affecting our society.”
Carlos’ bravery and rigour resulted in a literally ground-breaking piece of work. Not only did Broken Connectivity spark a debate about the serious and unexpected consequences of the country’s poor infrastructure, it also resulted in positive change.
“I think this documentary really pushed the authorities to do their job. For example, the repair of a road to the lake,” he adds. “It is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the whole country. After we mentioned it in the documentary, it was scheduled to a date sooner than the original one. And the same thing happened to another highway in the south of the country.”
The shortlist for the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award was judged by an external panel from the Foreign Press Association Awards.
This year’s panel includes top journalists such as Michael Crick, a British journalist for more than 30 years, who was also founding member of Channel 4 News; Stryker McGuire, former senior editor at Bloomberg Markets; Megha Mohan, the BBC’s first gender and identity correspondent; and Chair of the FPA judges, Alessandro Allocca, a freelance journalist working for the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica.
The panel describes Broken Connectivity as an “astonishing portrait of Guatemala through the quality of its roads. This was captivating and had humour.”
[Broken Connectivity] is completely captivating, you found joy and happiness in the midst of the disaster that is the roads.
Carlos says he plans to follow up on the people he met on this journey, particularly those who are most isolated by Guatemala's poor road network.
“Right now, these Guatemalans don't have access to good education and health and justice because they live extremely far away. So I want to know if in one year their situation changes, because at the end of the day, roads are the bridges that connect us and society,” says Carlos.
“Journalism is very important because it gives the information to the people so that every person can take a decision based on what is true and what is a fact. And if they have the right information, they have more freedom at the end of the day. That's why we as journalists have the duty to convey this information with powerful storytelling so that it can impact in a more efficient way.”
For me, being a finalist in the Young Journalists Award is a huge honour. It is also a reminder that Latin American journalism can achieve high levels of quality.
About the Young Journalist Award
In partnership with the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA), the annual award enables journalists aged 30 and under, from countries with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of less than US$20,000 to send in their best stories.
In 2022, a remarkable number of entries arrived from all over the world – Cameroon to Colombia, Ukraine to Uganda and Egypt to Ecuador. Each entrant needed to submit a portfolio of three published pieces of work produced in the 12 months preceding the deadline for submissions which was August 12th, 2022.
Thomson Foundation judges looked over the entries and selected the shortlist based on criteria including originality, endeavour, interest to audiences, and the anticipated or actual impact of the story after publication or broadcast.
The winner - Yashraj Sharma - was announced at the FPA Awards ceremony on 28 November 2022 in London.
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