TORONTO, Feb. 16, 2015 /CNW/ - A delegation to Honduras led by PEN International president John Ralston Saul, including PEN Canada and the University of Toronto Law Faculty (IHRP) arrived in Tegucigalpa this week to stand in solidarity with the recently established PEN Honduras Centre. PEN Honduras was launched in October 2014 to support writers – from journalists to poets to bloggers – who are working in an increasing climate of violence and fear.
With at least 46 journalists killed since 2003 and a record of near total impunity for these attacks, Honduras is one the most dangerous countries in the world in which to practice journalism.
'Journalists in Honduras face ongoing intimidation and threats, and crimes against them are routinely not investigated. The PEN delegation's visit is another step towards a free and independent media in a Honduras where crimes against journalists will not be tolerated'. –Dina Meza, President of PEN Honduras.
The PEN-IHRP delegation is in the country to follow up on their increasing concerns about freedom of expression and the safety of journalists ahead of the UN's review of Honduras' human rights record in May 2015 and to launch an annual award to promote investigative journalism in Honduras, sponsored by PEN Honduras and PEN Canada.
The award - Writing Without Fear – will be given to journalists covering issues of public interest to encourage growth of local reporting, research and analysis. The inaugural competition invites entries from journalists across all media platforms and aims to help those who have covered issues of national importance at personal risk. The award will be presented on 25 May each year – Honduras' Day of the Journalist – with a monetary prize and the possibility of receiving training in Canada.
The British Government has been supporting PEN's freedom of expression work in Honduras. 'The United Kingdom wishes to encourage basic freedoms, including access to information, and expresses concern over violence directed at journalists, ' said Her Majesty's Ambassador of the UK to Honduras, Sarah Dickson. 'We welcome the opening of the PEN Honduras Centre and applaud what it has already done in Honduras, and the work of the writers and journalists who run it. We also welcome the commitment of the Honduran authorities to investigate cases involving journalists.'
The visit provided an opportunity for the delegation to meet members of PEN Honduras, state officials, journalists and fellow writers. PEN is deeply concerned about the lack of political will to investigate violations of freedom of expression and crimes against journalists. Of the at least 46 journalists killed in Honduras since 2003, in just four cases have investigations resulted in a conviction, an impunity rate of over 91 per cent.
'We have come with many concerns but we want to leave a message of hope for writers who strive daily for a country where they can write without fear. PEN's global community of writers stand with you: your struggle is our struggle.' PEN International President, John Ralston Saul.
PEN International, PEN Canada and the IHRP are urging Honduras to take urgent action to ensure the safety of its journalists and writers, including by implementing a new protection law and enforcing existing protection measures. It must ensure the prompt and thorough investigation of all crimes against journalists, increase resources to human rights institutions and review its laws restricting freedom of expression.
To read PEN-IHRP's full recommendations to the Honduran state made by ahead of the review of the country's human rights record at the UN in May, click here.
For more information on PEN International's work in Honduras, click here.
For more information on Writing Without Fear investigative Journalism Prize, visit: www.penhonduras.org
SOURCE PEN Canada
For further information: Press contacts: Dina Meza, President of PEN Honduras: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: +504 95 57 31 81; Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International: email@example.com, tel: +504 9852 6289; Tasleem Thawar, Executive Director of PEN Canada: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 1 416 703 8448 x24