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Doing nothing is not an option

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dina meza, human rights, hondurasJournalist tours Europe to publicise the plight of journalists and human rights workers in Honduras.

Dina Meza says she had little choice about what type of reporting she would pursue when she left journalism college in Honduras.

Just as she was graduating in 1989, her brother Victor was “disappeared” by the security forces – one of the hundreds to vanish at the behest of the regime militias in a particularly terrible decade.

He was tortured by them for a week with electric shocks and beatings before being presented by the military at a press conference as being a “captured guerrilla fighter” and being thrown into jail.

“It made me angry, the injustice. I knew then that I had to cover human rights abuses. I never had any choice!” she explained recently to Jim Armitage for the Independent.

Her brother was freed in an amnesty after a campaign she led for his liberation.

Then in 2004, Meza joined the feisty Revistazo website.

Private security firms have often been used in the country to break up protests and civil unrest, which has been rife in the country in disputes over land rights. They are regularly accused of violent conduct.

“Revistazo were covering abuses committed by the security firms, against labour rights, the kind of stories the mainstream media didn’t want to cover,” she explained.

Her work was dangerous. As well as reporting on human rights, Revistazo also worked on behalf of victims who could not afford legal representation in judicial disputes.

On 4 December 2006, she and the company’s lawyer Dionisio Diaz had arranged to meet in the Supreme Court for a hearing into alleged abuses by security firms. He was on his way to the courthouse when two men on a motorbike shot him dead. “Right in the middle of the street,” she said.

The attention then focussed on her – and the harassment has rarely ceased since.

First it was the most unsubtle of verbal threats; then her children were followed at school and college and threatened; and she has received phone calls and text messages with disgustingly graphic sexual threats against her.

And although she has passed on her suspicions to the police, along with the phone numbers of the abusive callers, nothing, she says, is ever done about it.

Since President Lobo took  power after a 2009 coup, at least 23 journalists have been murdered, according to the Honduras National Commissioner for Human Rights.

The most dangerous subjects for reporters to cover include the police and disputes between mining companies and local peasants.

Meza spoke to Armitage in the London headquarters of Amnesty International, having just completed a four-month human rights course at the University of York.

She was, she admitted, partly in the UK to give herself and her children a break from the harassment they all suffer when she is at home.

But she is also doing a lecture tour of Europe, telling her stories and publicising the plight of journalists and human rights workers in Honduras.

She would like Europeans to put pressure on their MPs to get the Honduran government to bring and end to the abuse of journalists and on the more general human rights abuses in Honduras.

Asked if she would ever consider just giving up and take up living a quiet life, she said: “Never! The worst thing I could possibly do is nothing. We are going to keep struggling.”

“I could not look into my children´s eyes,” she explained, “and tell them I can do nothing about the situation, because to do nothing would be far worse than the threats, beatings or bullets of the police and militaries.”

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