International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (2 November) our current Shelter City The Hague guest, Tomy, shares her experiences as a journalist and human rights defenders in Honduras.

“Since seven years I am a journalist and human rights defender in Honduras where I work together with various organizations. The coup of 2009 demonstrated a brutal violation of the rights of the population, specifically of the people who were demonstrating against the rupture of the constitutional order. That year I was physically and verbally assaulted by members of the state security. This has convinced me to accompany people that have been violated just like me.

I made a combination between journalism (publicizing the violations and suffering of the most vulnerable groups in digital newspapers), and defending human rights through the support of women, peasants, indigenous people, LGBTI community and students who became a victim.

Currently I am a volunteer for an organization which promotes the freedom of expression. I also volunteer for a feminist organization, as well as for a center for studies and action for the development of Honduras. Furthermore, I work for an association for democracy and human rights and for a digital newspaper on human rights.

Corruption and impunity

Because of corruption and impunity, it is very dangerous to be a HRD and journalist in Honduras as we become stigmatized and criminalized in the media. According to the statistics 65 journalists and 11 human rights defenders have been killed since the coup in 2009. These numbers do not include the defenders of land rights and natural resources, neither the environmental activists. An example of the latter was our colleague Berta Cáceres who has been killed on the 3th of march this year despite publicly denouncing threats against her life and despite the precautionary measures that were granted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). Due to national and international pressure the perpetrators were captured, but justice will only be served when the masterminds behind this crime are judged.

We as defenders of human rights are dealing with surveillance, persecution, threats, intimidating telephone calls, wiretapping, negative campaigns on social networks, and with being shamed as ‘criminals’ or ‘defenders of criminals’. We are also appearing on intelligence lists that mention defenders that are considered to be ‘hostile’ and who need to be investigated. These lists are in the hands of the government intelligence agency. The most serious assaults we are facing are that of murder, and the use of the legal system to penalize the defense of human rights.

Recuperate in The Hague

All of this causes stress, paranoia, and a low mood. Because of the intensity of this work, the director of my organization advised me that it was necessary to take a break and recuperate. That is why I applied for the Shelter City Programme of Justice and Peace. The program allows me to think about everything that has happened over these intensive seven years of work.

For me, being here in The Netherlands is a very interesting turn of events; it is a totally different society, I cannot deny that at first it felt really strange to walk down the street peacefully without fear that something might happen.

I deeply appreciate the opportunity that Justice and Peace has given me by selecting me for this initiative, it is a unique experience and the people in the organization are extraordinary.”

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