July 9, 2007

A modern day heroine in Honduras

Dina Meza, HondurasDina Meza, coordinator of Revistazo.com
Photo: BBC.com

I've been reading Revistazo.com (en Español) for several months now ever since one of my readers recommended it (Antonio, I think). I have been impressed that this online newspaper has the guts to tell a lot of the stories that don't make the regular Honduran newspapers or if the story does get reported, it is sugar-coated and doesn't name names.

Dina Meza, Revistazo, HondurasRevistazo also has regular educational articles about some of the laws, particularly worker's rights. I've been curious about who was behind this online newspaper because it's not an exaggeration to say that people who do this kind of reporting in Honduras are risking their lives.

Just recently, Dina Meza, coordinator of Revistazo, received
the 2007 Amnesty International Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat. Here are some excerpts of Dina's words from a BBC article, Defying silence in Honduras:

"In the Middle East, the war is obvious. We can see the physical destruction of buildings and deaths of people.

But in Latin America, the war is different: it is one waged against poverty, hunger and a violence rooted in corruption which targets people who express their own ideas. It is a silent war against the impunity of recent years. It is a fight for a fair society.

Corrupt legal systems, corrupted media and impunity for the torturers and killers of the 1980s are phenomena to be found across Latin America.

Journalists here only have two options: you are either for or against the oppressed. If we can get into the shoes of those who are suffering, we will feel their pain and will be moved to do something."

"My colleagues and I created Revistazo because we could not publish our stories about human rights abuses anywhere else.

As a website, we aim to impact on decision-makers in Honduras and give the people whose interests we defend a hearing."

"Since last year staff on the magazine have been threatened more and more. We have had our telephones bugged and we and our families have been followed in the street. Threats get posted in the comments section of our website.

Once I got a message telling me that my teenage daughter was "very good-looking".

It is not easy to say who is behind this harassment. We also investigate the pay of senior civil servants and we also cover the rights of workers in the fast-food industry.

Our lawyer, Dionisio Diaz Garcia, was murdered on 4 December.

All seven of us have been assigned one police bodyguard each but they are effectively only there during office hours. We also have to pay for their meals and travel expenses though that should be the state's responsibility. Even then, we do not know if we are really safe because the security companies have a lot of influence within the police."

"When I recently asked the same official (one who had offered to buy her tickets to leave the country) what progress had been made to solve the murder, he got quite annoyed and told me he was going to take no further action regarding our problem. When you get a reply like that from the state, all you can do is put your faith in God and go on working."

Amnesty International UK had this to say:
"Journalists and human rights defenders in Honduras continue to be at risk for investigating, exposing and challenging human rights violations. In 2006, defenders were harassed, attacked, intimidated and even killed in connection with their work."
Revistazo's article about the award (in Spanish) is here. Another Revistazo article explains how Sra. Meza began fighting for human rights in the 1980's when her own brother "disappeared" and was tortured before finally being released. She has a long history of fighting for the rights of those who can't fight themselves.

Journalism.co.uk has a recorded interview of Sra. Meza (translated to English). It is a bit difficult to understand, but about 3/4 of the way through, she speaks of getting President Zelaya's private telephone number and calling him to say that it was very urgent that they meet because her and her colleagues' lives were in danger.

He was angry, said he was a very busy man, and asked who was she to try to organize his agenda? She says that he laughed at their plight. In a recent conversation with the commissioner of the National Commission for Human Rights, he said that he would abstain from doing
anything to help her because she had accused him of wrongdoing.

When asked about the danger and risk to her family, Dina Meza had this to say:

"I compare the risk my family and I now run with the legacy which I would leave my children by giving up.

I would leave them a corrupt society with a lot of injustice. It is just not worth it. My children know what I do and they know the risk we run. They also trust in God and know that He is protecting us.

So no, I won't give up."

Dina Meza, mother of three teenagers, is a Honduran heroine to be proud of.
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