2022: Ian Urbina, The New Yorker and The Outlaw Ocean Project

Few, if any, reporters have done more to expose the dangers faced by African migrants on their way to European shores than Ian Urbina, a 2016 finalist for the Michael Kelly Award. “The Invisible Wall,” published by The New Yorker in partnership with The Outlaw Ocean Project, is his latest installment in this subject and a tour de force. Urbina was spurred by a brief Doctors Without Borders press release to investigate the circumstances of a nameless migrant’s death in a Libyan detention center. An anonymous data point became a 28 year-old Bissau-Guinean called Aliou Candé, a name now known to all who care to read. In the face of grave danger—he was shadowed by “security guards,” intercepted by police during an interview, kidnapped by intelligence agents, and more—Urbina responded with steadfast conviction and sheer moxie. The Libyan prisons where people like Candé are detained form part of a deliberate E.U. policy to “offshore” responsibility for migrants. Urbina’s account was referenced in the media and government institutions around the world, prompting a request for an investigation by the International Criminal Court. His reporting upholds the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth” that characterized Michael Kelly’s own work.

2021: Nadja Drost, The California Sunday Magazine

“Then there was the death that they couldn’t see but that clogged their senses. It was the fetid smell seeping through patches of brush. It was the vultures circling and squawking overhead,” Nadja Drost writes in her California Sunday Magazine cover story, “When can we finally rest?” For seven days, Drost and the photographers Bruno Federico and Carlos Villalón walked 66 miles across the Darién Gap—a strip of dense, roadless jungle on the Colombia-Panama border—to document the dangerous journeys of migrants on their way to the United States. Drost is a meticulous and empathetic reporter. Her reconstruction of the day-to-day challenges of passage across this hostile, drug-trafficking landscape is detailed and compelling. At the same time, her detours into the personal histories of the Cameroonians and Pakistanis she accompanied reveal a deep human understanding. Drost’s reporting exemplifies the highest standards of the Michael Kelly Award.

2020: Azam Ahmed, The New York Times

The horrifying cycle of violence that afflicts so many Latin American countries is rendered with deeply felt humanity in Azam Ahmed’s five-part New York Times series, “Kill, or Be Killed: Latin America’s Homicide Crisis.” Ahmed explores the root causes of the many thousands of killings in the region every year. He moves beyond the numbers to paint memorable portraits: a brave Honduran pastor, a remorseful Mexican killer, a teenage Guatemalan mother. “Underpinning nearly every killing is a climate of impunity that, in some countries, leaves more than 95 percent of homicides unsolved,” Ahmed writes. “And the state is a guarantor of the phenomenon—governments hollowed out by corruption are either incapable or unwilling to apply the rule of law, enabling criminal networks to dictate the lives of millions.”

2019: Maggie Michael, Nariman Ayman El-Mofty, and Maad al-Zikry, The Associated Press

2018: Dionne Searcey, The New York Times
2017: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones
2016: Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times
2015: Rania Abouzeid, Politico Magazine
2014: Rukmini Callimachi, The Associated Press
2013: Brian Mockenhaupt, Byliner.com
2012: Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker
2011: Mandy Locke and Joseph Neff, The Raleigh News & Observer
2010: David Rohde, The New York Times
2009: Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry, The Seattle Times
2008: Loretta Tofani, The Salt Lake Tribune
2007: C. J. Chivers, Esquire
2006: Sharon LaFraniere, The New York Times
2005: Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times
2004: Anthony Shadid, The Washington Post