BY ISN STAFF | September 29, 2015
Rev. Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., known as Padre Melo, has been named the 2015 Rafto Prize laureate for his use of the media in defending human rights and freedom of speech in Honduras, one of the world’s most violent countries.
“Padre Melo is a fearless spokesperson who works tirelessly to investigate and communicate the reasons for the violence and abuse committed against vulnerable groups in society,” Rafto officials said in a press release.
Padre Melo is a Jesuit priest and human rights activist in his native Honduras. He directs the Radio Progreso radio station and E.R.I.C, The Team for Reflection, Research and Communication, whose work encompasses: grassroots radio programming; training on human rights, community organizing, and empowerment; the formation of leadership committed to social change; and aiding migrant families.
Radio Progreso was shut down by the military during Honduras’s military coup in June 2009, and the station has been occupied several times since. During this same time, over 50 journalist and social commentators have been murdered in Honduras, and many more have been kidnapped, tortured, or suffered death threats.
In April 2014, one of the Radio Progreso team members, Carlos Mejia, was brutally murdered. In a press conference following the tragic event, Melo stated at a press conference that 16 ERIC/Radio Progeso employees, including Mejia, have received significant death threats since the 2009 Honduran coup. Fr. Moreno has also previously testified before the U.S. Congress at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission regarding the human rights situation in Honduras and the fear he and his staff and others in the journalism sector experience.
Last fall, ISN honored Radio Progreso and E.R.I.C. with the “Legacy of the Martyrs” award for their courageous advocacy in Honduras. The other honoree was Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-2), who this week delivered remarks to the U.S. House of Representatives on the plight of marginalized communities in Honduras.
In March, an 18-minute documentary on Melo and Radio Progreso titled La Voz Del Pueblo was released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s murder in neighboring El Salvador. Directed by Jeremy Zipple, S.J., executive editor of America Films, the film was the result of a partnership between America Media, Ignatian Solidarity Network, and the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
The Rafto Prize is awarded by the Rafto Foundation, a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to the global promotion of human rights. Since 1987, the foundation has awarded the prize each year to distinguished advocates of human rights and democracy. Previous winners include Aung San Suu Kyi and Bishop José Raúl Vera López.
The award will be presented Nov 1 at Den Nationale Scene (DNS) in Bergen, Norway.