whistleblowerThe Mesa Refuge is proud to announce the new Jeanette Pontacq Fellowship for Investigative Journalism, with an emphasis on supporting whistle-blowers. Each year, the Pontacq Fellow will receive a two-week writing residency to help tell their story.

A whistle-blower is a person who exposes information or activity within an organization that is illegal, dishonest or embarrassing. Such persons are essential to the functioning of democracy. In theory, they are protected by federal law, just as journalists are protected by the First Amendment. In practice, however, both whistle-blowers and the journalists they work with frequently face criminal charges and jail-time, including Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Jeanette-Pontacq-300-sqJeanette Pontacq, who died in 2015, was a neighbor of the Mesa Refuge, a successful businesswoman and passionate advocate for human and animal rights. She particularly disliked her government’s military adventures abroad and surveillance of citizens at home. Before she died, she created the multi-year fellowship with a bequest to the Mesa Refuge, a cornerstone gift to the Mesa’s new legacy program.

“Jeanette was a fighter for truth and justice,” said Peter Barnes, the founder of the Mesa Refuge. “She believed in speaking up even if the government doesn’t like it,” he said.

The first Pontacq Fellow will be announced later this year.

For more information contact Susan Page Tillett, Mesa Refuge Executive Director.

See all of our fellowships here.