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PEN Case (2013): Dina Meza – Honduras, A life under threat

Dina Meza at the 81st PEN International Congress, Quebec

© PEN International


Dina Meza, an award-winning journalist, human rights defender and author, has been the victim of harassment and threats over many years. Her case featured in PEN International’s 2013 Day of the Imprisoned Writer as the threats against her escalated. In 2014, she was awarded the Oxfam Novib/PEN International Freedom of Expression Award in acknowledgement of her defense of freedom of expression despite the grave threat to her personal safety.

Meza is a long-standing human rights defender in a country where standing up for justice is dangerous. She is the director of the human rights organisation ASOPODEHU and founder of PEN Honduras. She also set up and became editor of the online newspaper ‘Pasos de Animal Grande’ where she publishes information on human rights violations and corruption in Honduras.

Since 2006, Meza has reported being followed, watched, threatened and her communications intercepted. Then, in 2012, these escalated with threats of sexual violence and death, including against her teenage children. This led Meza to leave Honduras briefly in 2013 only to find that the harassment continued on her return, including an abduction attempt, and an attack on her car.

Honduras has among the highest murder rates in the world at six times the global average, and journalists and human rights defenders are particular targets. Meza today continues to live under threat, despite which she remains among the most high-profile rights defenders in the country, instrumental in calling for justice for protestors beaten by police, and for the environmental activist, Bertha Caceres, murdered in 2016.

Writing Sample

Dina Meza delivered a speech to the US House of Representatives on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2018 of which the following is an excerpt:

Today in Honduras, women journalists and human rights defenders are under siege like never before, especially following the highly contested 2017 election which was marred by widespread electoral fraud and violence. We are

living a nightmare of state violence and mass incarceration of journalists, students and human rights defenders. This is happening in a climate of complete impunity with the backing of the US government. I come to you today, on International Women’s Day, urging you to act.

“Justice is as far away as the stars in the sky.”

These are the words of Dunia Montoya, a leading female Honduran journalist who was brutally beaten by the police and security forces as she covered a protest against state corruption in September 2015. As she filmed the protest, Dunia was surrounded by several rings of police who attacked her without mercy. With their police boots, they kicked her, damaging her collarbone, they punched her and tried to choke her. She fainted from the pain.

Unlike Dunia, her attackers have little to fear. The only policeman who has charged with this assault, Carlos Alberto Arzú Herrera, went to her house with a group of police two months ago. In violation of a restraining order he threatened her children and assaulted her brother.

Arzú Herrera says he was only following orders.

Last Monday, the judge in the case once again postponed the hearing against him. No reasons were given. In Honduras, the judiciary is neither independent nor effective. We have little hope for justice, it is as far away as the stars in the sky.

The violence against Dunia is emblematic of the widespread violence against women journalists in Honduras, a country in which seventy-five (75) journalists and media workers have been murdered with a ninety six per cent impunity rate.

Useful Links

PEN International Profile, Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2013

Peace Brigades International Profile:

Dina Meza’s on-line newspaper, Pasos de Animal Grandes: