About the Prize

Last update: April 21, 2022

Awarded anually, the $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá, Colombia on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Guillermo Cano Isaza Foundation (Colombia), the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland), Namibia Media Trust and Democracy & Media Foundation Stichting Democratie & Media

The Prize is awarded on the recommendation of an independent international jury. The jury consists of six independent members, representing all types of media including digital media, one from each of the six regions as defined by UNESCO, in other words six persons appointed in their individual capacity by the Director-General of UNESCO for a period of three years, renewable once.

The Prize winner is selected by the Director-General of UNESCO on the basis of the assessments and recommendations made to him/her by the jury.

All processes relating to the administration of the Prize will adhere to the Regulations for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.


Born in Bogotá, Colombia on 12 August 1925, Guillermo Cano Isaza was assassinated on 17 December 1986, at the entrance to the office of El Espectador, where he had served as the editor since the age of 27. The newspaper's building was destroyed in a bomb attack three years later.

The murder of Guillermo Cano is significant in terms of unpunished crimes against journalists. Cano was a victim of drug trafficking mafias, whom he fearlessly denounced and about whose harmful effects on Colombian society he cautioned. On 17 December 1986 two hired killers waited for him by the newspaper’s exit and fired the eight shots that killed him.

The magistrates in charge of the investigation became the object of threats and bribes, with some being murdered for rejecting such bribes. The life of Guillermo Cano, his courage, his compromise with independent journalism and the tenacity with which he fought for his country are an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Guillermo Cano's career-long commitment to diversity of opinion and the circumstances of his death symbolise the price paid by journalists worldwide for exercising their profession. Journalists are imprisoned and ill-treated every day and the fact that these crimes, for the most of them, go unpunished is even more alarming.

The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was established in 1997, on the initiative of UNESCO's Executive Board and is formally conferred by the Director-General of the Organization on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, on 3 May.