Canadian and Honduran PEN award inaugural prize for investigative/public interest journalism

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Canadian and Honduran PEN centres award inaugural prize for investigative/public interest journalism

TORONTO/TEGUCIGALPA, May 25, 2015 —The inaugural PEN Canada/PEN Honduras competition for investigative journalism, Escribir sin Miedo, has been won by the journalist and documentary filmmaker Fred Alvarado. The award for Mr. Alvarado’s essay “HONDURAS: the Process of American Remilitarization and the Failure of the War on Drugs” will be formally presented at a ceremony in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday, May 25th, the date on which Honduras recognizes its annual Day of the Journalist.

Escribir sin Miedo was organized and launched by the newly established PEN Honduras centre, in partnership with PEN Canada, with funding from the British embassy in Guatemala. The competition was advertised on social media networks and in national print and broadcast media, between March and April 2015. Submissions were adjudicated by a panel of five judges: Sergio Bahr, Dina Meza and Jorge Miralda (Honduras); and Osiris Villalobos and Jim Creskey (Canada). The jury gave honorable mentions to work from Claudia Mendoza (“Prepaid Girls: the Invisible face of Sexual Exploitation in Honduras”) and social communicator German Andino (“Transforming Numbers into Pirate Ships”).

Escribir Sin Miedo was established to foster the development of investigative journalism in Honduras, following the January 2014 publication of Honduras: Journalism in the Shadow of Impunity, a joint report by PEN Canada, PEN International and the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. A subsequent grant from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office allowed PEN Canada to work with the PEN Honduras centre to pursue solidarity building initiatives in Honduras.

“This award acknowledges the extraordinary bravery of journalists who work in a climate of violence and impunity,” said Tasleem Thawar, Executive Director of PEN Canada. “We hope that their work will inspire countries like Canada, which recently established a free-trade agreement with Honduras, to make freedom of expression a top priority.”

“Investigative journalism has never been more important in this country,” said Dina Meza, president of PEN Honduras, “and awards like this recognize the importance of creating a culture in which writers and human rights defenders can address sensitive issues without fearing for their lives.”

Despite Honduras’ repeated commitments to protect journalists and combat impunity, both the current and previous administrations have displayed a consistent lack of political will to investigate violations of freedom of expression and to protect local media workers. At least 30 journalists have been killed since the country’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, and at least 48 since 2003. Several were killed even after receiving protection measures, including “precautionary measures” granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). To date the government has obtained convictions in just four of these cases, with the remaining 44 unresolved – an impunity rate of over 90 per cent.

The recommendations submitted at the latest UPR, on May 8, 2015 must not be treated as formalities. Honduras must implement them as a matter of urgency, with transparency and constant monitoring from the international community, and close scrutiny from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada.

PEN Honduras promotes all forms of art and culture. It fights against any form of repression. It defends the free transmission of thought, opposes censorship and the suppression of freedom of expression, and it supports the free press.

For further information:
Amy Smith, PEN Canada,, 416-703-8448 ext. 21



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