Human rights and journalism threatened

The Silencing of Dissent: How Freedom of the Press is Threatened in Honduras

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Jennifer Ávila, a Honduran journalist spoke about violence and journalistic freedom in Honduras. Ávila spoke in English with a Spanish language translator. Brian McGloin/PSU Vanguard

Journalist Jennifer Ávila spoke on Oct. 18 at Portland State about the journalistic freedom amid violence in Honduras.

In a presentation titled, “The Silencing of Dissent: How Freedom of the Press is Threatened in Honduras,” Ávila described how the root causes of migration and the struggles of Central American citizens were linked to United States and Honduran policy.

“[Honduras’] geography is strategically located because of drugs and the fact that 90 percent of the drugs going to the U.S. have to pass through Honduras,” Ávila said via an interpreter. “That strategic location along with the richness in resources…has turned into a purse for Honduras and created a series of problems.”

Ávila co-founded a digital media platform promoting journalism while educating the public on harsh realities in Honduras.

Honduras experienced an indigenous movement in 2015 in which five environmental human rights activists were killed for drawing attention to the mineral and hydroelectric concessions exploiting their land resources. This movement inspired Ávila to be a co-founder to the digital platform known as Contracorriente, gathering journalists to talk about the importance of sharing the issues of Honduras and using new technology and innovation to promote journalism. The objective of Contracorriente is to be a platform for the history of Honduras and its citizens while subverting those who use power to plunder the state and undermine the Honduran people.

This global movement impacted the streets of the small Central American country after the looting of the Honduran Social Security Institute was linked to the National Party, in which public health funds were directly diverted for the political campaign of current President Juan Orlando Hernández. Human Rights Watch has described the situation under Hernández as being, “marred by corruption and abuse,” while reforms remain ineffective. “Impunity for crime and human rights abuses is the norm.”

“Honduras is a country [where] memory is erased, and this has created a serious identity problem within people and has then showed up in ways in which as citizens we don’t feel empowered to exercise our rights,” Ávila said.

As a journalist and activist, Ávila and her team will continue to promote awareness of issues in their country, creating a platform open to all.

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