Journalist Nina Lakhani, a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK, faces a campaign of intimidation following her coverage of a notorious murder trial in Honduras. The IFJ joins the NUJ, its British affiliate, in condemning the intimidation campaign against Nina and urging the Honduran authorities to protect her.
Nina Lakhani is a freelance investigative journalist who has been reporting on Latin American stories for the last five years. Based in Mexico, Lakhani moved to Tegucigalpa to report on the murder of Honduran indigenous activist leader Berta Caceres, killed in March 2016 after opposing a hydroelectric dam project on the Gualcarque River, an area considered by indigenous communities as sacred.
Caceres’ murder was widely condemned by the international community prompting calls for an urgent investigation and an independent trial in a country where impunity is prevalent.
Lakhani, who has followed the case from the beginning, is the only international journalist covering the trial against the eight men charged and which was supposed to start last week but was delayed after the judges were formally accused of abuse of authority and a cover-up.
After publishing her second article on the case, where she reported on the criminal structure that is being protected by Honduran judicial system, Lakhani was subject to a smear campaign that accuses her of participating in violent and drug-trafficking activities. This intimidation and defamatory campaign has no other intention than scaring and forcing the journalist to leave the country and, therefore, silence her reporting. A press release was spread across the country denouncing her, saying she was using journalism to cover up illegal activities.
Lakhani has said that she’s “deeply concerned” about how things operate in Honduras, where “people are killed with impunity and anyone threatening the status quo is at risk”.
“But international coverage for the trial, especially regarding its flaws, is really important so I will stay as long as it’s safe for me to be here”, she added.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “these latest smears are a crude and cynical attempt to deter Nina in the fearless work she has been conducting, investigating the murder of Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres and in the process uncovering links to criminal networks and corruption – areas of clear public interest. In a country where impunity is rife, such intimidation is deliberately designed to make Nina and her journalism a target, and we call on the authorities to act robustly to ensure her safety.”
Jeremy Dear, deputy general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, added his voice to the call for action: “these threats are designed to send a chilling effect to all media workers and it’s vital that the international community of journalists collectively sends a message that this culture of impunity needs to be dismantled. Nina, and all other journalists working in Honduras, need to be able to work freely, independently and fearlessly.”