For Martín Leandro Camacho, 2020 represented a milestone in what is expected to be an influential and fulfilling career. It was the year the Peruvian became the eighth winner of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award from among almost 200 entries spanning four continents.
“The year was exceptional because of Covid-19 and its effects on communities worldwide,” said the foundation’s former chief executive, Nigel Baker. “For the first time, it provided a common theme across entries, with a stark reminder of how the pandemic has upset normal life in so many different ways across the world.”
Martín’s award came for an outstanding and varied portfolio of work, including: the disproportionate effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the poor; the fears and anger of parents of children suffering from lead poisoning at a mining centre in the high Andes; and police brutality inflicted on members of a fishing community protesting against the exploitation of heavy crude oil off its coastline.
Towards the end of the year, he was covering civil unrest as thousands of Peruvians took to the streets to protest against the ousting of President Martín Vizcarra. In early 2021, he reported on how 500 of Peru's elite were secretly 'queue-jumping' Covid-19 vaccine wait lists and how access to water – a basic human right – remained out of reach for the forgotten families in the small town of Santa Ana, northeast of Lima, the country's capital.
More recently, in July 2021, entitled "The Cry of the People", Martín created a visual record on the historical moment Pedro Castillo – a rural primary schoolteacher and political outsider – was elected the new president of Peru.
Most impressive is that, at 27, he is producing high quality journalism as an independent operator, outside the mainstream.
Martín, who had been employed as a journalist with a leading newspaper, decided to go it alone because he felt the publication was not adequately serving its audience. He set up Nube Roja (Red Cloud), a news website that gave him the independence he needed to hold power to account and to seek the truth.
“It is essential to maintain balance because without that there is no credibility,” he says. “The public comes to us precisely because we are truthful. We take our time to put together a story because we try to contrast and verify each point we make.”
As with all independent media outlets the hardest part, Martín admits, is making it financially viable. The key, he says, is to build an audience and grow from there. All the website’s content is promoted on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The public comes to us precisely because we are truthful.
“It’s very difficult, income is low and each report is self-financed,” Martín explains. “Despite this, we have invested in equipment, we have a decent website, we do impact reports and we have printed a magazine.”
“Now, with the Thomson award, many people have started to look at us more. We have launched a subscription programme and want to make a living from this, to grow Red Cloud no matter how long it takes.”