Established in 2017, the Don Bolles Medal recognizes investigative journalists who have exhibited extraordinary courage in standing up against intimidation or efforts to suppress the truth about matters of public importance.
The medal was created in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the Arizona Project, an effort led by IRE to finish the work of Don Bolles, an Arizona Republic investigative reporter who was killed in 1976 by a car bomb.
Bolles’ death came a few days before the first national IRE conference in Indianapolis, where the veteran reporter had been scheduled to speak on a panel. At the time, Bolles had been investigating allegations of land fraud involving prominent politicians and individuals with ties to organized crime.
After his murder, nearly 40 journalists from across the country descended on Arizona to complete his investigation. News organizations across the country published their findings. Their message: Even if you kill a reporter, you can’t kill the story.
To nominate someone for the Don Bolles Medal, please fill out this form.
You'll be asked to provide your name, affiliation and contact information as well as details about the nominee: Link(s) to their work and brief description of why this person merits the medal.
Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German was killed in 2022 in apparent retaliation for his reporting on a local public official.
German, 69, whose career in Las Vegas spanned four decades, was found stabbed to death outside his home on September 3, 2022. At the time, Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook called German "the gold standard of the news business."
"It's hard to imagine what Las Vegas would be like today without his many years of shining a bright light on dark places," Cook added.
German joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun. During his career, German repeatedly uncovered government corruption and exposed the misdeeds of Sin City’s most notorious mob figures.
Roman Anin, founder and editor of iStories, and Roman Badanin, founder and editor of Proekt were subjected to raids of their homes in 2021, eventually forced to leave Russia in order to continue their investigative journalism.
In April 2021, Federal Security Service agents raided the home of Roman Anin, as well as the editorial offices of iStories ("Important Stories") in apparent retaliation for the news outlet's reporting on the inexplicable wealth of Igor Sechin, head of the state-owned oil company Rosneft.
In June 2021, authorities raided the homes of Roman Badanin and other members of his Proekt team as they prepared to publish an investigation into corruption allegations surrounding Russia's interior minister. Proekt became the first independent news organization to be labeled by the Russian government as "undesirable," forcing Badanin to seek refuge in the U.S.
Chao Deng, Josh Chin and Philip Wen of The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reporter Chris Buckley courageously worked to expose human rights abuses in China, as well as that country's handling of the coronavirus crisis, and faced retaliation from the government of China for their reporting.
Deng, Chin and Wen were expelled from China in February 2020 in the first mass expulsion of journalists in the post-Mao era. While the government of China claimed that it was retaliating for the headline of an opinion column (knowing that the Journal's news and editorial operations are completely separate), the expulsions enabled Chinese officials to suppress critical reporting about the government's failures.
In July 2020, in a signal of the Chinese government's determination to extend its repressive reach, Buckley was forced to leave Hong Kong after authorities refused to renew his visa. His reporting had previously revealed how China was detaining Muslims in vast numbers.
Investigative journalists Chris Ingalls, Jeremy Jojola and A.C. Thompson each became the subject of efforts to intimidate them and their families for their reporting. Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., known for his commitment to shining the spotlight on extremism in America, also was targeted.
In February 2020, federal authorities announced that they had arrested several members of a white supremacist group, known as the Atomwaffen Division, for their efforts to intimidate journalists.
Turkish journalist Pelin Ünker was sentenced to prison for 13 months for "defamation and insult" of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his two sons. An appeals court dismissed the prison term in April, but upheld a fine against Ünker.
Ünker, a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, used the Paradise Papers trove of documents to report that Yildirim's sons held shares in offshore shipping companies set up in Malta. Ünker reported that one company shared an address with a Turkish business that won a $7 million research and shipping-related tender from the Turkish government.
Yildirim, who later became speaker of Turkey’s Grand National Assembly, reportedly did not deny the facts of Ünker's stories that were published in Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s oldest newspapers.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested while reporting on human rights abuses in Myanmar. The two Reuters journalists have been imprisoned since December 2017.
At the time of their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were investigating the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The murders occurred during an army crackdown that the United Nations said has sent 700,000 people flooding into Bangladesh.
The two journalists were accused of "illegally possessing confidential government documents" after two police officers invited them to dinner and handed them a stack of rolled-up papers.
A police captain has testified that officers had been ordered to "trap" Wa Lone.
"I should be in the newsroom," Wa Lone said during a court appearance. "I am a journalist. I never did anything wrong."
Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea was assassinated in 2017 in retaliation for her efforts to expose organized crime and corruption.
The correspondent for the national newspaper La Jornada was shot eight times in her car outside her home in March. The 54-year-old mother of three had been involved in exposing organized crime, drug trafficking and corruption in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
Her murder came almost three weeks after she had reported on the role of an organized crime syndicate in supporting candidates for mayor in several small towns in Chihuahua. She had persisted in her reporting despite having received several threats.
According to news reports, the gunman left a note saying the assassination was "for being a snitch."
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