We just received an update from our friends at Radio Victoria in Cabañas. After a few years of enduring innumerable threats and attacks, things seem to appear to have settled down a little. The Radio and its employees have not received a threat or sabotage since January, and the support they have received from the international community has been vital to their continuing their mission.
As we’ve reported in previous posts, Radio Victoria employees have received death threats since 2006 and last summer attackers sabotaged the radio’s equipment. These threats and attacks escalated at the same time that Marcelo Rivera and other activists in Cabañas were attacked and even killed. Several employees have had to go into hiding, while others have depended on bodyguards for extra security.
Radio Victoria and its staff are the embodiment of civic participation and democracy in El Salvador. Despite receiving death threats, the Radio’s young team gets on the air everyday to exercise their freedom of speech and broadcast news and opinion. They also provide a platform for others in the community to voice their concerns and opinions. Over the years, the Radio and its on-air guests have tackled the most difficult topics such as the debate over mining, corruption in local governments, electoral fraud, and much more.
In response to the attacks and threats, the Salvadoran and international community came together to support the Radio. Voices took four delegations to visit the Radio between January and March 2010. U.S. Sister Cities, the International Solidarity Center, journalists from Spain, Germany, Nicaragua, the School for International Training, researchers from Alaska, and many others also visited the Radio in an expression of solidarity. In recent months they have also told their story on radio and television programs in the El Salvador, the United States, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, and Europe. They also received workshops on security, mental health, and political violence, as well as important financial support to address their security concerns, including a grant from Journalists Helping Journalists in Munich Germany.
The Radio recently applied for and received a one-year scholarship from the Hamburger Stiftung Foundation for one of the Radio staff who had been especially affected by the threats and attacks. He or she will spend the next year living in Germany and recuperating from the trauma they have endured over the past couple of years.
The Radio is also participating in a project for women, youth and alternative communications that will allow them to expand their broadcasting coverage, improve their programming, and receive more training in human rights, gender equality, the environment, cultural identity and civic participation. The Organization of American States Freedom of Expression Special Rapporteur recognized Radio Victoria in their 2009 report, and offered them workshops on freedom of expression with others from Central and South America.
Radio staff reports that they are doing well and they remain committed to their mission, though they are still looking over their shoulders and taking extra security measures.
Some of their staff is still unable to return home due to security risks, and all of them have been changed forever.
Despite the recent support, the Radio still operates on a “shoestring budget” and needs your help. They have an opportunity to participate in a Spanish program that will help them improve their infrastructure. They have raised some of the funds necessary to participate (they have to cover some of the costs), but need help raising the rest.
Please make a generous donation today. You can do so by visiting the Voices on the Border Website and click on the Donate Now button, or click here to access our Network for Good page (indicate that you would like your donation to be directed to Radio Victoria).
Radio Victoria is one of the cornerstones of civil society and democracy in El Salvador, and your support will go a long way.