Media Awards

2021 Media Awards for Excellence in Crime Reporting

The Ministry of Home Affairs & New Growth Industries, through the Belize Crime Observatory (BCO), hereby invites Belize media professionals to submit their print, voice or video stories and/or documentaries for consideration by a panel of select judges for the BCO’s 2021 Media Awards for Excellence in Crime Reporting. Media professionals can submit multiple entries for consideration, either individually or as a package. Individual and/or group entries are also welcomed.


Access the entry form here: or by scanning the QR Code



About the Awards

This activity is a follow-up to the Crime Data Reporting Workshop, hosted by the Belize Crime Observatory in March 2020, with sponsorship from USAID through the InfoSegura Project. During that workshop, Media professionals from print, broadcast and online media mapped out several story ideas for future coverage. The concepts envisioned investigative work and collaboration with peers on a range of topics related to crime and violence.

Objective of the Awards: To promote excellence in reporting on crime and violence through insightful stories that raise awareness of the problems and root causes; highlight initiatives and interventions for positive change; and provide the general public with useful information to support a “whole of society” approach to the fight against crime.

Criteria: The Media Awards are intended to recognize and honor creativity, integrity, enterprise, and honesty in crime reporting which has contributed to public engagement and understanding, or to public policy in any area related to crime reporting.

Entries: Entries must include at least one supporting letter from the editor and/or a reputable reference, explaining why the entry should be considered. Only published works will be considered; therefore, submissions must include sources of verification of publication and/or broadcast. Only stories and/or documentaries dated 1 January 2020 to 31 January 2021 are eligible for consideration.


Note: Submitted pieces may be used (in whole or in part) as tools for further advocacy against crime and violence in Belize.



  1. Best Single News Story
  2. Best Feature Story
  3. Best News Series
  4. Best Documentary

Rewards:  Trophy/Plaque, Gift Certificates, other Prizes (More details to come.)




A panel of three distinguished judges will prescreen the entries to create a shortlist of up to 5 items per category. From among the entries chosen for the shortlist, there will be further screening to determine the winners by category.


Deseree Arzu

Mark Usher

Hortence Banner Hernandez



Deseree Cain-Arzu, a veteran communications leader and media expert, is the Communications Co-ordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society – Belize office.

Prior to working with WCS-Belize, Deseree was the Public Relations and Consumer Affairs Officer at the Public Utilities Commission, Belize. She also worked for almost two decades as a news director, producer, and radio personality at major radio stations in Belize, including the defunct Radio Belize, Love FM, FM 2000, and Krem Radio. In 2008, she won the MVP award for her work as a news producer at Krem Radio.

The recipient of the 2014 OAS Graduate Scholarship, Deseree earned a Master of Science degree in Communication and Media Technologies from the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, in May 2016.

In 2019, Deseree Cain-Arzu was bestowed the Earth Journalism Network Award for Conservation in support of her published investigative story on the future of the conch in Belize.

Although Mark Anthony F Usher is an Electrical Engineer in the Electricity Sector at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in Belize, he is also well known as the founder of PROTO Foundation, a non-profit organization that builds social capital at the community level in Belize City.

Since the age of 16, he has been engaged in youth empowerment through education, sports, arts, and music. His leadership and interpersonal qualities were harnessed when he served as Public Relations Officer of the Belize Basketball Federation, in various leadership roles in the Belize District Basketball Association, as Executive Director of the National Sports Council, member of the National Council for Education, and Chairman of the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET).

Mr. Usher graduated from the University of Technology in Jamaica with first class honors on the attainment of his Bachelor’s degree in electrical Power Engineering. He later became a Registered Professional Engineer and member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Belize (APEB).

Hortence Matilda Banner Hernandez oversees the Police Press Office. During her 20 years of service to the Belize Police Department, she has worked in varying capacities as an officer of the Patrol Branch, the Special Operation Team, and the Family Violence Unit. She has also worked in Community Policing, where she served as deputy and at times as Officer Commanding.

Hortence was promoted to the rank of Corporal on October 1, 2007. Despite her hard work and dedication, it was not until almost 13 years in that rank, in July of 2019, that she was promoted to the rank of Sargent.

Mrs. Hortence Banner Hernandez continued to pursue higher education. In 2015, she graduated with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies, with honours, and in July of 2020, she attained her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Sector Management from the University of Belize.

Hortence believes that with determination, a woman is capable of achieving anything. She is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Management in Public Administration.


Shortlisting criteria


  1. Complete entry with all requisite information provided;
  2. Original published work;
  3. Demonstrates contribution to public engagement and understanding, or to public policy in any area related to crime reporting; and
  4. At least one reputable reference provided in support of entry.

Final judging

Shortlisted entries will be screened in more detail by the panel of judges, who will use a scoring matrix based on the objective of the contest and its stated criteria,  as detailed above.



Demonstrated quality in structure, format, content 10%
Creativity, integrity, and enterprise evident in story creation and delivery 20%
Raised awareness on the problems and root causes of crime; highlighted initiatives and interventions for positive change; or provided the public with useful information to support a “whole of society” approach to the fight against crime 20%
Provided timely, accuracy, complete and insightful information from authoritative sources 25%
Resulted in meaningful public engagement and understanding, or contributed to public policy or intervention in any area related to crime reporting, including the administration of justice 25%

This Media Engagement initiative is also made possible through the InfoSegura Project, co-implemented in Belize by the UNDP and the Ministry of Home Affairs & New Growth Industries, and funded by USAID.