Honduran journalist Dina Meza testifies at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Photo: CIDH/Flickr)
Yesterday at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington D.C, a group led by PEN Canada presented the results of its 2014 report Honduras: Journalism in the Shadow of Impunity, which details the threats to reporters in the Central American republic.
The IACHR is part of the Organization of American States, and its mission is to promote human rights throughout the Americas. The report was prepared by PEN Canada, PEN International, and the University of Toronto's International Human Rights Program, and tells a dire story of intimidation, killings and impunity in a state dealing with corruption and lack of resources for investigation.
In 2009, Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup, and the years since have not been kind to journalists in the country. According to the report, at least 32 reporters have been killed, and many more have received threats of violence for their coverage. And the threats don't just come from the government or the army.
“Journalists who carry out investigations receive threats from all sides,” Dina Meza, a Honduran journalist who's been on the receiving end of threats, told the Toronto Star.
Those sides include the transnational drug cartels that have set up shop in the country, and a police force that has been struggling with widespread corruption for years.
The attacks on journalists come against a startlingly violent backdrop: in 2012, Honduras saw 85.5 homicides per 100,000 people, making it the most dangerous country on Earth. According to the report, only an estimated 20 per cent of crime is reported and only a small fraction of that is even investigated.
“The problem is they don’t investigate anybody and don’t punish anybody,” Meza told the Star. “Criminals have a free hand.”
The report talks about the country's Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, which is tasked with investigating threats against journalists, but does not have the resources to look into the more than 7,000 cases forwarded to it. It also points a finger at the journalistic culture in the country overall.
"Deep divisions among the journalists themselves hinder the fight against impunity," the report says. "A striking absence of camaraderie within the profession has impaired its ability to collaborate effectively in protesting violence against journalists and in promoting protection mechanisms."
PEN International is a global organization that promotes free speech and expression as a basic human right.
To learn more about the plight of journalists in Honduras, check out the full report on the PEN Canada website.