Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Mafia Reporter With a Police Escort (and the 200 Journalists Like Him)

italy journalist

The Mafia Reporter With a Police Escort (and the 200 Journalists Like Him)

By Gaia Pianigiani

May 20, 2018
ROME — For many of his days over the past four years, Paolo Borrometi has lived in isolation, though he is barely ever alone. He has not walked through a park or by the beach in his native Sicily for years. He cannot go to a restaurant freely, or to a concert or the movies. He can’t drive a car alone, go shopping alone, or go out for dinner by himself.

Before heading to work as a reporter covering the mafia, he starts each morning with an espresso, a cigarette — and his police escort.

Angering the mafia as a journalist in Italy makes for a lonely life. And yet Mr. Borrometi, 35, is in good company. Almost 200 reporters in Italy live under police protection, making it unique among industrialized Western countries, advocacy groups say.

“None of us wants to be a hero or a model,” Mr. Borrometi told an assembly of high school students on a recent morning in Rome, where he now lives. “We just want to do our job and our duty, to tell stories.”

Yet murders connected to organized crime are rising in Italy, the authorities say, and international observers consider criminal networks the principal threat to journalists in Europe.

“Don’t stop writing, Paolo,” read an email Mr. Borrometi received two days after he was assaulted in 2014 outside his family’s country home in Sicily by two men wearing balaclavas. “Our countries need free and investigative journalism. You have my respect.”

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The note came from Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese investigative journalist who was herself killed in a car-bomb attack last year, after exposing her island nation’s links to offshore tax havens and reporting on local politicians’ crimes for decades. When she died at 53, she had 47 lawsuits pending against her, including one from the country’s economy minister.

In addition to Ms. Caruana Galizia, who was killed in October, a 27-year-old reporter, Jan Kuciak, was killed along with his fiancée in Slovakia in February. He had also been investigating corruption with suspected ties to Italian mobsters.


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Students at the Terenzio Mamiani High School in Rome listened to a presentation by journalists about the risks of the profession.CreditNadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times
“There have already been two journalists killed by the mafia inside the European Union, both investigating mafia stories and stories that domestic governments were not looking into,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, who is responsible for the European desk at Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for press freedom.

“Italy is historically the country that has felt the mafia the most, and has a dozen of journalists under 24-hour police protection,” Ms. Adès-Mével said. “That doesn’t happen in other countries.”

Among those journalists is Lirio Abbate, a mafia expert with the magazine L’Espresso, who has been under protection for 11 years, since the police thwarted a bomb attack in front of his house in Palermo. Federica Angeli, a reporter with La Repubblica, and her family have been under police escort for five years. And Roberto Saviano, the author of “Gomorrah,” a best-selling book, movie and TV series about the Neapolitan crime syndicate, has been under escort since 2006.

For Mr. Borrometi, it took just a year of reporting on the secret businesses and clandestine political ties of the mafia in southeastern Sicily for his independent news website, La Spia (The Spy), before criminals menaced him. In five years, he got hundreds of death threats from local mobsters.

Mr. Borrometi, who trained as a lawyer, started writing for local papers when he was 17, inspired by a Sicilian investigative reporter, Giovanni Spampinato, who was killed by the mafia in the 1970s.

He started his own website five years ago. His first investigation, on mafia infiltrations among top officials in the town of Scicli, contributed to the government’s decision to dissolve city hall.

His articles pull no punches. They detail the connections between political powers and the mob, naming names, and accompanied by photographs. “People need to know who they are when they meet them at the bar,” he said.

At first, his articles prompted vandalism against him and late night phone calls. But things got physical after he began writing a series of stories that showed how Sicily’s largest fruit and vegetable market was controlled by mobsters.


REPORT: LEBANON EXPELS BBC JOURNALIST FOR REPORTING FROM ISRAEL After the BBC’s Mehrdad Farahmand interviewed Avichay Adraee, the head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Lebanon expelled him from the country.


After the BBC’s Mehrdad Farahmand interviewed Avichay Adraee, the head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Lebanon expelled him from the country.

mehrdad monfared

After the BBC’s Mehrdad Farahmand interviewed Avichay Adraee, the head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Lebanon expelled him from the country.
BY SAMUEL THROPE MAY 21, 2018 11:57

Mehrdad Farahmand in Israel, Instagram, May 16, 2018. (photo credit: INSTAGRAM/MEHRDAD FARAHMAND)

Lebanon’s General Security Directorate expelled Iranian-born BBC journalist Mehrdad Farahmand from the country Sunday night for visiting and reporting from Israel, the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reported Monday.

Farahmand, who has been based in Beirut as a correspondent for the BBC’s Persian Service for 12 years, has been reporting from Israel in recent days.
The Lebanese decision came in response to a video Farahmand posted to Facebook Saturday, Al-Akhbar reported.

In the video, Farahmand interviews Avichay Adraee, the head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. Farahmand translated into Persian Adraee’s message to Iranians that the IDF has no ill will towards Iran’s population and inviting Iranians to visit Israel.

Malta court rejects bid to stop FBI testimony in journalist murder case

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Malta court rejects bid to stop FBI testimony in journalist murder case

May 21-2018

VALLETTA (Reuters) – A Maltese court on Monday dismissed an attempt by one of the suspects in the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia to stop an FBI team testifying in pre-trial proceedings.

FILE PHOTO: People hold up pictures of assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a vigil and demonstration marking seven months since her murder in a car bomb, at her makeshift memorial outside the Courts of Justice in Valletta, Malta May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo
Galizia, an anti-corruption blogger, was killed by a car bomb last October. The bomb is believed to have been triggered by a signal from a mobile phone and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been helping Maltese authorities to solve the case.

Three people have been charged with carrying out the murder but police have not identified who ordered it. The three people deny the charges.

One of the three, Alfred Degiorgio, tried to have the FBI barred from giving evidence in the case on the grounds that it has worked with a court-appointed Maltese IT expert, Martin Bajada, who has a historic conviction for theft and fraud.

“Dr Bajada should never have been appointed in the first place and should never have been allowed to work alongside the FBI experts,” a lawyer for Degiorgio said, adding that his client’s rights would be prejudiced if the foreign experts were allowed to testify.

In her ruling, Judge Lorraine Schembri Orland described Degiorgio’s attempt to stop the FBI from giving evidence as “frivolous and vexatious”.

Maurizio Cordina, a lawyer representing Malta’s Attorney General, said the case was “a desperate maneuver by Mr Degiorgio to delay, if not block” the trial, adding that Bajada had simply gathered evidence and had not worked with the FBI.

The case against Degiorgio is built mostly around intercepts of mobile phone data compiled by the FBI and Bajada.

The FBI is due to give evidence in the case on Tuesday.

The Times of Malta reported that Bajada pleaded guilty in 1993 in a London court to charges of theft and fraud and received a two-year suspended sentence.

Europe’s clash with Trump over Iran nuclear deal is a durability test


Europe’s clash with Trump over Iran nuclear deal is a durability test
Tone struck by Britain, France and Germany will be critical to future transatlantic relations

European leaders are determined to try to salvage the Iran nuclear deal even though this potentially puts them on a collision course with an uncompromising US president determined to confront Iran as the “leading state sponsor of terror”.

The clash represents a huge test of the durability of the surprisingly concerted alliance that Germany, France and the UK have managed to maintain in their humiliatingly fruitless bid to prevent Donald Tump from explicitly withdrawing from the deal signed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

The risk is that the unity forged by the European trio over the need to preserve the deal now falters as disagreements surface on how far they are prepared to antagonise a determined US president, not to mention Israel and Saudi Arabia, to keep the deal alive.

Radio journalist jailed by Cameroon military court


Radio journalist jailed by Cameroon military court: CPJ
AFRICATuesday 8 May 2018 – 8:00am

Cameroon radio journalist Akumbom Elvis McCarthy, who a military court ordered must be held for at least six months. Photo: ANA / credit withheld

JOHANNESBURG – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Tuesday demanded his immediate release of radio journalist Akumbom Elvis McCarthy after the Cameroon military court ordered that he must be held for at least six months.

Last month, on 10 April, a military tribunal ordered that McCarthy, a news broadcaster for privately owned Abakwa FM Radio based in Cameroon’s Bamenda region, be remanded in custody for a renewable six-month period while police investigate claims that the journalist aired secessionist propaganda.

READ: Ex-Cameroon minister arrested in Nigeria, extradited home

“Akumbom Elvis McCarthy should not have been arrested in the first place and should be immediately released without charge,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.

“We condemn Cameroon’s use of a military tribunal to prosecute a civilian, which is in violation of international law.”

Ghana’s ruling party forced to condemn activist for slapping journalist


Ghana’s ruling party forced to condemn activist for slapping journalist

Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) was on Tuesday forced to apologize for an attack on a female journalist at its headquarters in the capital, Accra.

A party sympathizer, one Hajia Fati, is reported to have slapped a female journalist who was covering a story at the NPP headquarters. The attacker admitted the incident but explained that the journalist did not look like a media person.

She is said to have likened the journalist to an onion seller who she mistook for an ally of an embattled party official who had been barred from contesting in internal elections.

The Multimedia group, Ghana’s biggest media outfit, along with other channels threatened the party with coverage boycott over the incident. It is said that the threat forced the NPP’s apology issued on Tuesday.

It read in part: “The NPP has noted with concern an alleged attack by one of its supporters, Hajia Fati. We distance ourselves from the act and condemn it unreservedly.

“The party wishes to assure Ghanaian journalists that, it cherishes the role of the media as partners in development and does not condone any action intended to suppress press freedom.

“No journalist should feel intimidated and must continue to discharge his/her duties without fear. Though the New Patriotic Party has already began an internal inquiry into the alleged incident, we will also cooperate with other agencies investigating same,” the statement signed by acting General Secretary John Boadu read.

Ghana was Africa’s best performing nation in the area of press freedom according to the latest report of media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Incidents of assault on journalists is however not uncommon.

Media pluralism but not enough independence – RSF report on Ghana
General elections were held in December 2016 without major incidents or media freedom violations. Ghana is regarded as one of the most democratic countries in Africa and Chapter 12 of its 1992 constitution guarantees media pluralism and independence.

But only a very small number of media outlets provide good news coverage. A third of the media are owned by the state or by businessmen linked to the government.

Investigative journalist shot and injured in Montenegro


Investigative journalist shot and injured in Montenegro
Olivera Lakić wounded outside her home in the country’s second attack on a journalist in a month

An investigative reporter who covers crime and corruption in Montenegro has been shot and injured in an attack that prompted calls from the European Union and the US to protect journalists in the Balkan country.

Olivera Lakić, a journalist for the Montenegrin newspaper Vijesti, was wounded in the right leg outside her home in the capital, Podgorica. She was taken to a hospital and was reported out of danger.

Police said the attack happened around 9pm. A search for the attackers was underway, including increased controls throughout the city and a review of surveillance cameras in the area, police said.

Vijesti’s chief editor, Mihailo Jovović, said Lakić told him a man approached her and shot her, while two other men ran away.

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She was attacked six years ago after she wrote a series of articles about alleged murky dealings over a tobacco factory. That perpetrator was jailed for several months and Lakić had police protection for a while.

“I am speechless,” Jovović said in comments published on the Vijesti website. “For how much longer will this be happening? A lot of stories she wrote have not been investigated [by the authorities]. For how much longer must we live in fear of such cowards?”

Prime minister Duško Marković condemned the attack and urged a “swift and efficient investigation” to discover the motive as well as who might have ordered it.

The assault, the second against a journalist in a month, prompted international concern. Last month a bomb exploded near the home of a prominent journalist in the northern town of Bijelo Polje.

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Police inspect the scene of the shooting. Photograph: Risto Bozovic/AP

The US embassy in Podgorica tweeted that it was “following with concern the attack tonight on journalist Olivera Lakić.” It said journalists “are the guardians of democracy and must be protected so they can do their jobs in safety”.

A warning to the corrupt: if you kill a journalist, another will take their place
Laurent Richard
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Aivo Orav, head of the EU delegation in Montenegro, called the attack “very worrying.” In the tweet, Orav said that “journalists must be protected.”

Montenegro is a former Yugoslav republic that joined Nato last year and is now also seeking EU membership. The long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists has faced accusations of widespread crime and corruption.

The EU, which Montenegro hopes to join by 2025, along with international human rights and media organisations have been insisting that the authorities solve a string of attacks against journalists and media organisations.

Many of the dozen or so assaults in the last 15 years, including the 2004 murder of editor Duško Jovanović, remain unresolved

Police officer tells massage therapist ‘happy endings’ are ‘part of the business’


Police officer tells massage therapist ‘happy endings’ are ‘part of the business’

Montreal woman eventually files report after first officer seemed to try to dissuade her from doing so

Registered massage therapist Claudia Cavaliere said she was disappointed and discouraged after a Montreal police officer told her putting up with inappropriate sexual behaviour was part of her job. (CBC)

Editor’s note: This story contains sexually explicit details.

A West Island registered massage therapist is urging Montreal police to examine how they handle complaints of unwanted sexual behaviour after an officer seemed to try to dissuade her from filing a report and repeatedly told her to not be “emotional.”

Claudia Cavaliere, 20, was a few months out of massage therapy school when she found herself alone in a room with a client at a spa on St-Charles Boulevard last month, and in a situation that quickly degenerated.

She said she was massaging the middle-aged man’s leg when he started grinding his pelvis on the table. She said he then turned over and masturbated in front of her. He said nothing to her except to demand a tissue.

“I didn’t know what to do. I just froze,” she said. Eventually, she backed out of the room and was intercepted by a colleague who moved her into another massage room and told the client to leave.

“I couldn’t speak. I was hyperventilating. I was crying. I was sitting on the floor in the corner of the room, panicking,” Cavaliere said.

The man gave a fake name and a phony phone number, she later learned, and he didn’t park in the spa’s lot.

‘My safety is at risk’

She said the traumatic incident was compounded by the reception at Montreal police’s Kirkland detachment as she tried to file a complaint.

Cavaliere said she expected to hear what had happened to her was not acceptable and police would look into it, but that she felt an officer just tried to dissuade her from making a report.

“He was like, ‘Well, you know, you have to get ready to appear in court. Do you really want to do that?'” she said.

“Of course I want to do this. My safety is at risk, and other massage therapists’ safety is at risk, and other women’s safety is at risk.… Nobody is safe if people are walking in the streets thinking it’s OK to have this kind of behaviour in a public space.”

After first describing the incident and feeling uncomfortable, Cavaliere said she started recording her conversation with the officer with her phone in her pocket.

In the eight-minute recording, the officer repeatedly tells Cavaliere how it will be next to impossible to identify the man, that there will be no investigation if he cannot be identified and that what she encountered is “part of the business.”

Police officer tells massage therapist ‘happy endings’ are ‘part of the business’


00:00 05:55


Massage therapist Claudia Cavaliere recorded her conversation with a Montreal police officer when she went to police to file a complaint over a client’s unwanted sexual behaviour. 5:55

The officer also tells Cavaliere the incident isn’t considered a sexual offence and, because the client did not demand she do anything or touch her, any conviction wouldn’t result in “a harsh punishment,” but a $500 fine.

I’m saying, be prepared to have weirdos. You will have weirdos. That’s the nature of the business.– Police officer, advising Claudia Cavaliere

He tells her that her spa, which also offers services such as manicures and waxing, is on a stretch of road where “there’s a lot of happy endings.”

“There’s a lot of weirdos out there,” the officer tells her. “I’m saying, be prepared to have weirdos. You will have weirdos. That’s the nature of the business. Unfortunately, that’s what happens. I just don’t want you to get emotional because you have weirdos out there.”

Cavaliere left the station with the form on which to write her statement. But the incident left her questioning whether her concerns were valid and if she should bother going through with her complaint.

“There was a part of me that said, ‘No, I shouldn’t go back. What’s the point of going back? They’re never going to catch this guy. I should just try to forget it.'”

Disbelief and dismay

Rita Acosta, from Movement Against Rape and Incest, said the police officer’s reaction is far too common.

CBC played the recording of Cavaliere’s interaction with the officer for Acosta and four of her colleagues.

Acosta said it seemed as if he was trying to discourage her from filing a complaint.

That shouldn’t be done, she said, because it could be devastating for a victim — for a woman who has the gumption to call the police and say, ‘Listen, this is what happened to me.'”

Rita Acosta of the Movement Against Rape and Incest says police need more training on how to handle complaints of this type with sensitivity. (CBC)

Acosta said Cavaliere is courageous for going through with her complaint because, after an exchange like the one she experienced, many other women would have been too discouraged to proceed.

She said police need better training on how to deal with women who turn to them for help.

Cavaliere decided to return to the police station and officially file a report after talking to her boss, who told her the spa had surveillance images of the man. She said she met with a different officer, who reassured her, listened to her complaint and helped her file the report.

“All he had to say was, ‘This is not your fault,'” she said. “He took the time to ask me questions.”

“In my head, I’m thinking, ‘This is an amazing cop.’ But then again, he’s not an amazing cop — he’s a cop who is doing his job, who clearly knows what he’s doing. He clearly knows how to help people and not leave people feeling unsafe.”

Cavaliere said she went into massage therapy because she wanted to help people overcome pain. (Charles Contant/CBC)

‘This is completely wrong,’ SPVM concurs

The Montreal police service will not comment on the specific incident, but SPVM Insp. Ian Lafrenière said interactions like these do not look good for the force.

“When I hear stories like that, it makes me very sad,” he said.

“It’s not a lack of training. Sometimes we have a police officer that needs some discipline or who just lost it on that day. We are police officers, and we make mistakes. When we hear things like that we do not try to cover it up. We don’t try to say it is correct. This is completely wrong.”

Lafrenière had not heard the recording of the interview, but said he hopes Cavaliere will lodge a formal complaint with the police ethics commission.

The SPVM does have a sexual assault prevention unit, although not all front-line officers receive specialized training.

Photo ID now required at spa

At Cavaliere’s spa, the owners have taken steps to protect the staff by requiring photo ID for any new massage clients, she said.

Cavaliere said she hopes talking about the incident will show that more needs to be done to support victims and ensure that they feel comfortable approaching authorities.


Sandra Maribel Sánchez shrugs off blackmail as easily as she would an online troll.

Threats against your life are all in a day’s work, says the 55-year-old Honduran journalist, when you report on feminism, politics and human rights in a country rife with corruption and organized crime and ruled by men.

“It’s not a matter of how afraid or brave you are, critical journalism has to do with your convictions,” says Honduran journalist and feminist Sandra Maribel Sánchez.

“Once you’ve realized that threats are going to be a part of it, you don’t feel fear when they materialize,” Sánchez says breezily. “It’s not a matter of how afraid or brave you are, critical journalism has to do with your convictions.”

We’re seated on a jostling bus bound for Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. It’s a winding four-hour road trip from rural Río Blanco, through lush green forest, coffee and corn plantations.

“As you may have noticed, I’m pretty strong-willed, so I defend my freedom of expression,” she adds. “I don’t go before hand to ask for permission… and if someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to listen.”

Over three decades, Sánchez has risen as a respected, progressive broadcaster in Honduras — known for staring down the authorities time and again in the name of freedom of the press. As a woman, she has endured numerous indignities along the way, ranging from sexist comments to police arrest and a physical attack.

But Sánchez vows she will never be silenced, because “journalism is my life.”

Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Tegucigalpa is the capital city of Honduras, and widely considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world to be a woman, journalist or activist. It is seen here on Oct. 20, 2017 from the Hotel Honduras Maya. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

Conquering congress in the 1980s

An indefatigable reporter, Sánchez launched her career more than 30 years ago, at a time when women were unpopular in the workforce, let alone a newsroom.

She also did it in Tegucigalpa, which is widely recognized as the most dangerous capital on Earth with no declared war. Honduras is a troubled Central American state where a woman is killed every 16 hours, and at least 69 journalists have been murdered since 2001.

Sánchez rose to prominence as the second female reporter to cover national politics in Honduran history. But her success didn’t come easily — at her very first job, she was told that women should not be covering politics at all.

It was around 1985, and she had been hired as a political correspondent by Radio América Honduras, only to be assigned to cover health and education. She pushed back against newsroom management and wound up covering the National Congress.

Her next challenge came in the halls of government itself, where no one — not even her reporting colleagues — would take her seriously. In group interviews with politicians, known as scrums, she was constantly overlooked.

“When I would ask a question, my colleagues would turn off their tape recorders,” she remembers, her bitterness discernible. “They assumed I wouldn’t ask anything that could be considered important.”

They were wrong; Sánchez quickly started scooping the male reporters. They paid attention and started deferring to her, having her ask the first questions in a scrum.

“That’s when they considered me competition and somebody not to be dismissed,” she says. “But as women, it’s really hard to win those spaces.”

Sánchez stayed with Radio América for 18 years. In addition to reporting, she hosted her very own talk show, whose air time she used to cover controversial topics, such as feminism, Indigenous rights and environmental protection.

Yet despite earning her chops as a political correspondent, eventually she realized she would never be promoted to newsroom management because she was a woman.

So she quit.

Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Sandra Maribel Sánchez, journalism, Radio

Honduran journalists film a press conference with Nobel Peace Prize laureates Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman in Tegucigalpa on Oct. 24, 2017. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

Always the rebel

Before she was a journalist, Sánchez was a primary school teacher. But it never sparked her passion, and after completing her qualifications, she moved on.

“I had 40 children in my classroom and I was paid the equivalent of $40 a month,” Sánchez explains. “… I wanted to study journalism because I had been organized politically since high school and thought as a journalist, I could contribute to the changes our country needed.”

Sánchez grew up during the Cold War, after a series of military coups and a war with El Salvador that returned Honduras to civilian rule. At the urging of the U.S. government — which had established a continuing military presence there to train local troops and support El Salvador — Honduras adopted a national security regime that targeted internal subversion and dissent.

Sánchez was undeterred by the risks of being a young female activist. She joined Honduras’ Federation of Secondary Students, and travelled the country to attend “underground” meetings on such dangerous topics as feminism, Indigenous sovereignty and systemic state corruption.

It was at these meetings that she came to know another female Honduran trailblazer — beloved Indigenous activist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Berta Cáceres. Cáceres was murdered in March 2016 after leading a 20-year campaign against the Honduran state selling ancestral Indigenous lands to foreign companies. The assassination, still under investigation today, sent shock waves through the country.

Sánchez remembers her fondly.

“We learned from her that when you have a dream you have to go after it and work for it, regardless of the risks… We also learned that you have to have an international forum to make (the issues) known.”

This is why the weight of social change in Honduras falls so heavily on journalists, Sánchez explains — they have a direct line of communication with the outside world. But that “great responsibility” often comes at great risk, as she learned in the latter half of her career.

Berta Cáceres, women's rights, Honduras, environmental activists, killings, murder, impunity

Lenca environmental activists set up a humble tribute to slain environmentalist Berta Cáceres in their traditional territory of Río Blanco, Honduras on Oct. 21, 2017. Cáceres was murdered in March 2016 for her advocacy against a hydroelectric dam slated for construction on a sacred Lenca river in Río Blanco. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

Awarded, attacked, arrested

In December 2007, Sánchez was awarded the Argentina-based Fundación Democracía sin Fronteras Prize for Journalistic Integrity. It is given to those who, against great odds, uphold freedom of expression, objectivity and the fight against corruption.

At the time, she was the news director for Radio Globo — a station that did not refuse her a promotion based on sex. One of her first moves in management was to ensure her reporting team was at least 50 per cent female.

“The female journalists were actually better than the men, and our audience knew that too,” she says with a grin.

The recognition was a major accomplishment, she adds, given that in Honduras, “all women are perceived to be less skilled and capable than men in every field, regardless of how well the person is doing the work.”

“The patriarchy is the underlying theme everywhere, even of course, within women’s perceptions,” Sánchez explains. “Although there’s been a great deal of effort within women’s and feminist organizations, it has not been enough to deconstruct a culture that was built over centuries.”

Sánchez stayed at Radio Globo nearly five years, steadfast in her commitment to coverage of environmental defence, Indigenous rights, social welfare, freedom of expression and “critical analysis of what (politicians) aren’t doing.” During that time, life in Honduras took a turn for the worst — especially for journalists.

In 2008, Sánchez and her family received numerous threats and were repeatedly followed by unmarked vehicles due to her support for a hunger strike undertaken by a handful of public prosecutors who wanted proceedings initiated in the country’s most notorious, unpunished corruption cases. Her family was unharmed, but shaken.

It was the calm before the storm. A year later, there was a a constitutional crisis and coup d’état in Honduras. The president was ousted and exiled and constitutional rights were suspended for 45 days. By August 2009, as civil unrest and conflict escalated, the interim government had shut down a number local broadcasters — including Sánchez’s Radio Globo, whose offices were raided by masked soldiers.

The following years were among the deadliest for journalists in Honduras. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, at least 22 journalists were murdered. Only one case resulted in sentencing.

At the time, Frank La Rue, a United Nations special freedom of expression rapporteur, called these statistics “unacceptable and inhuman,” and called on the new Honduran president to create measures to protect journalists and their families.

Sánchez says those dark times strengthened her resolve.

“I knew this was a profession subject to ongoing censorship — that we would have to struggle for freedom of expression, and that when you want to practice the kind of journalism I practice, you are always at risk. But journalism is my life.”

Sandra Maribel Sanchez, Radio Progreso, Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Shirin Ebadi, Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize, Yemen, Iran

Honduran journalist Sandra Maribel Sanchez (centre) poses for a photo with Nobel Peace Prize laureates Tawakkol Karman of Yemen (left) and Shirin Ebadi of Iran, who visited Tegucigalpa in October 2017 to hear from women human rights defenders. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

In 2014, Sánchez received an unprecedented apology from a Honduran police officer who disrupted her coverage of a 2011 protest, during which he and his team had teargassed a bus full of innocent passengers. Sánchez’s camera was broken during the incident, which was characterized by the local paper El Heraldo as an “aggression” limiting a journalist’s “right to work freely.” The policer officer voluntarily submitted to freedom of expression sensitivity training, and at the time, Sánchez deemed his actions “courageous” and precedent-setting.

Two years later, in November 2016 — several months after the murder of her dear friend Berta Cáceres — Sánchez was beaten, dragged and arrested by police at tollbooth near Tegucigalpa, where she was covering a protest supporting the right to free movement (without tolls) in the country. She was later released without charge, and her news station filed a complaint with the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights in Honduras.

Asked whether she has been targeted more than other journalists in the country, she responds:

“There’s really not a robust, critical press in our country so it’s very easy to be singled out by those who do not tolerate freedom of expression.”

A dream for true democracy

After a brief stint with Radio Gualcho, Sánchez moved on to Radio Progreso — a proudly independent broadcaster run by the Catholic Order of Jesuits, dedicated to amplifying marginalized voices and advancing human rights. She works there today, and has made a name for herself as an outspoken feminist, political and social commentator — particularly during the recent election.

It was a tumultuous and controversial election, wrought with accusations of fraud, protests andviolence that left than 30 people dead on the streets, and launched Honduras into its worst political crisis in a decade.

Yet amid such troubled times, Sánchez says she sees glimmers of hope, particularly for women. Over the years, the country has enacted a domestic violence law, recognized ‘femicide’ (the sex-based murder of women) in the criminal code, and increased punishments for offenders. It has also launched a new Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders, which outlines a number of government safety measures to protect journalists and their families.

More women have access to education now than when she was a little girl, she adds, and increasingly, women are asserting themselves in politics and society at large.

“I see young women with fewer fears. I see them negotiating,” she tells me, our ride to Tegucigalpa nearing its end. “They can end relations when they’re not satisfactory. That makes me think that there has been progress even though there have been a number of issues.”

I ask her what her dream is — what she hopes her struggle will amount to in her lifetime. The answer is surprisingly simple.

“That Honduras could become a true democracy, because if it were a true democracy it would ensure that all the other changes I would like to see would take place,” Sánchez responds.

“There would be equal participation of men and women, youth and adults, and black and Indigenous people in decision-making processes.”

Lenca people, Honduras, Berta Cáceres, Río Blanco, COPINH

Indigenous Lenca girls smile during a memorial ceremony for a murdered community leader, Berta Cáceres, on Oct. 21, 2017 in Río Blanco, Honduras. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

Editor’s Note: Elizabeth McSheffrey travelled to Honduras with the Nobel Women’s Initiative and Just Associates, which provided translation services for this interview.

The Globe wins six National Newspaper Awards; Robyn Doolittle named Journalist of the Year

globe and mail award

The Globe wins six National Newspaper Awards; Robyn Doolittle named Journalist of the Year

The Globe and Mail won the most honours at the 69th National Newspaper Awards, taking the top prize in six of 21 categories. In addition, The Globe’s Robyn Doolittle took the award for 2017 Journalist of the Year.

The six wins exceeded the four each won by The Toronto Star and Montreal’s La Presse.

“We are gratified The Globe won more awards than anyone in this annual competition. Amid such competition, Robyn Doolittle was named Journalist of the Year. We are dedicated to continuing that success,” said David Walmsley, The Globe’s editor-in-chief.

The Globe awards included a win in the Investigations category for the Unfounded series by Ms. Doolitte, which revealed how frequently police forces across Canada concluded that sexual-assault allegations, even in cases of strong evidence, did not warrant the laying of charges.

“The series, which involved 20 months of painstaking investigation and interviews by Ms. Doolittle, led police forces across the country to re-examine thousands of case files and reopen hundreds,” said a statement from the NNA.

Ms. Doolittle was also selected by a panel of three former NNA winners as 2017 Journalist of the Year, with the NNA organization saying in a statement that judges saw Unfounded as “exceptional” investigative reporting that required a massive amount of research and verification by Ms. Doolittle “as well as a respectful approach to the complainants she interviewed.”

Other Globe wins among 18 nominations in 13 categories included Eric Andrew-Gee, honoured in the Arts and Entertainment category for a look at the disputed heritage of renowned Canadian author Joseph Boyden, and Sean Fine’s Beat Reporting prize for an examination of Canada’s judicial system after time limits on criminal proceedings were imposed by the Supreme Court.

Overall, there were 63 finalists in the 21 categories, selected from 881 entries for work published in 2017 at daily newspapers, news agencies and online news sites.

Globe staff or freelancers won in the following categories:

Among the 21 categories in the annual competition, five were won by groundbreaking investigative efforts, the NNA organizers noted in a statement.

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