Globe, Human Rights, Latin America, Politiks

Journalism under fire

Dina Meza… Telling the truth, many journalists are killed each year and threatened worldwide for committing this offense. Since 2009 27 journalists have been killed in Honduras, one of the most dangerous countries for the profession.

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Dina Meza 7Ramón Alabau

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“Journalism is what maintains democracy. It is the force for progressive social change “, states American writer Andrew Vachss, in defining the work of the communicator.

However, it’s not easy to report freely everywhere.

Honduras, for example, is considered the second most dangerous country in Latin America to work in the profession and 27 journalists have been killed there since the 2009 coup.

Reporting about agrarian conflicts or environmental problems caused by mining companies, among other subjects, are behind various kidnappings, bombings, persecution, murder and death threats that have been reported in the Central American country.

Dina Meza
Dina Meza

Dina Meza, journalist and human rights defender, has received various threats to her physical integrity and her family. Now she says that she is “regaining strength” in London, where she attends training courses for activists at risk.

Her plight has prompted Reporters Without Borders to demand that the Honduran authorities take steps to safeguard the lives of their citizens and guarantee their right to work as journalists.

Meza told The Prisma that her opinions bother different groups and she has been censored occupationally for it.

“In Honduras media corporations manipulate information. They are controlled by big businesses, and they don’t like my information, they expel me, ban me “.

Dina Meza 14Add to that the fact that freedom of expression is suffering these days, and with the approach of the November elections, an attack. “Young people and women have taken to the streets to reassert their rights and have been severely repressed.”

“There is much stigma relating to young people in ‘gangs’, and they are subjected to being sent to jail or being killed, many are dismembered. They are the target of rights violators because many are under the umbrella of the National Front of Resistance, a movement against their economic interests,” he adds.

Dina Meza 11The activist also reports that teenagers in Honduras within the current system do not have an ideal future. “The state does not offer free education, few can afford university, and then there are no jobs for them.”

Meza considers Honduras a country with rich natural resources, but that the monopoly of big companies on the territory is behind the poverty and discrimination which people live with.

Dina Meza 15“80% of the wealth is in the hands of 10 families, the rest of the resources are shared between more than eight million people. Economic groups have taken over the territory, placed people in power that they trust will benefit them and have restricted labour rights. They leave the people with no future.”

Meza has received messages and calls from people who want to endanger her life. How did the threats begin?

In 2006 I began an investigation, with a team of lawyers, on the network of security companies, many of them controlled by important people, ex-military and ex-police. At the time, one of my classmates was killed.

Dina Meza 4These companies violate many of their workers’ rights and so far had not had anyone to investigate them, to bother them.

After the coup, the persecution against me increased. They spy on me, they have tapped the phone in my house, my family has been attacked.

It is difficult to work as a journalist and human rights advocate in this situation, but it is more dangerous to do nothing.

I began my fight because my sister was one of those who disappeared in ’89. I made a commitment to inform and defend the rights of the disappeared; I think that journalism plays a vital role.

How do you pursue your profession, taking into account the obstacles?

I have been able to continue working as a journalist through using social media. Now, from London I will drive a platform for everyone with issues of freedom of expression.

Also from the area of ​​communication in many organizations, and other alternative platforms such as newspapers or radio programmes.

The Network has no limits although in Honduras there have been attempts to boycott some websites. There have been many anti-government alternatives as a result of the coup.

Who is or are behind the threats?

Dina Meza  3 Dina MezaI have no direct names, but they are all those who violate human rights. I have written and spoken much about my country’s agrarian conflicts, especially the Lower Aguan where many crimes have been perpetrated against the peasants.

I have accompanied these people in all kinds of acts to defend the state in which they live and work. They have been driven from their crops. Certain people do not like this. Many landlords do not want to continue speaking out against their interests.

Is it more difficult for a woman to work as a journalist in Honduras than for a man?

Dina Meza 6Of course it is, there are many stereotypes. If I ask  a soldier why he has beaten a person, being a woman makes him think I have no right to ask, that I should be at home cleaning or in the kitchen.

Machismo is linked to the lack of existing institutions. We worked hard to get the army off the streets in the nineties, to demilitarize the police, but now the security forces are made up of soldiers, which have hurt journalists and rights defenders.

Reporters Without Borders has asked to be granted special security. How has the Honduran government responded to this?

Dina Meza 12Although the Human Rights Commission has issued two injunctions in my favour, the State of Honduras has not responded. It is an executive permissive accomplice, it isn’t assuming its responsibilities.

We have talked to the police so that they patrol the area where I live because we have seen armed strangers lurking around and asking for me.

I have asked for a senior phone so that if something happens I can communicate directly with them, but the contact number doesn’t work or it rings continuously.

How has your life changed with the death threats?

Dina Meza 16They are violating my freedom of movement. I had to move house, use two different vehicles. My children cannot lead a normal life or play sports. It has been a radical change for my family.

We use codes to communicate, because we have the phones tapped. Furthermore, the psychological pressure of this situation affects us greatly. My daughter constantly dreams that we are killed, or that the military enters our home.

Have you ever thought about leaving journalism?

Dina Meza  5If we fail to inform, we leave room for impunity. How can I leave this country to my children in this situation?

I have led an international campaign to denounce the situation of Honduras. I’ve been in Vienna, Hamburg and elsewhere, so that the international community see that my country has not changed and does not respect the fundamental rights of individuals, even worse, impunity is favoured and violence has increased.

What should be changed to improve the situation in Honduras and of its people?

Dina Meza 18I see it necessary that the international community must decide on what is happening, because all the money that many countries used to assist Honduras is being used to purchase weapons that are used against its citizens.

We should reflect upon things, set conditions, monitor the situation and adequately manage all the money that is sent  otherwise we would be encouraging impunity.

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(Translated by: Sophie Maling – Email: sophie_maling@hotmail.com)

 

 

 

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