Friday, March 25, 2011

Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) honoured for commitment to human rights

José Zepeda of Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) is to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the Autonomous University of Encarnación in Paraguay in recognition of his commitment to human rights in Latin America.

According to the university, Mr Zepeda, head of the Latin American department at RNW, has played an important role in the spread of free speech. "His work has made him a unique personality. He has paid great attention to events in our country and contributed to the strengthening of our democracy."

In the 1960s the young José Zepeda fled from the junta of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. He arrived in the Netherlands and joined the Latin American department of RNW. He subsequently became head of that department, a role he has held for many years.

RNW gives a lot of attention in its broadcasts to human rights, freedom of expression and press freedom. In the past, that has led to sharp criticism from the dictatorial regimes that used to call the shots in Latin America. RNW has always allowed the opposition in those countries to express their opinions, something that was often denied in their own countries. For this work RNW has received various prizes and awards down the years.

José Zepeda has succeeded in getting important political leaders in front of the RNW microphone, such as President Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia. Mr Zepeda also gives lectures at universities and training centres.

RNW Editor-in-Chief Rik Rensen recalls: "We were once at a conference in Bogota with sixty partners. An elderly woman came over to embrace Mr Zepeda and said: "This is the voice that connects my village with the rest of the world.”

Jose Zepeda says he’s delighted to receive this honorary doctorate. Since he came to the Netherlands a lot has changed in Latin America. The dictatorial regimes of yesteryear have given way to democracies. But according to Mr Zepeda, RNW still plays an important role in the region: "The Latin American democracies are fragile. Some of the neo-populist governments have authoritarian tendencies. In some countries, press freedom remains weak. In Mexico it’s disturbing how many journalists are murdered by organized criminals because they’re investigating corruption or the murder of women. "

Plans for the future
In the near future, RNW will be turning its attention to the drugs problem in Latin America. A Spanish version of our site about sex education, Love Matters, will be launched under the title 'Hablemos de Amor'. RNW, in partnership with other Dutch and international organisations, is also holding a special event in The Hague on 3 May to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Mr Zepeda says “the 86-year-old Cuban poetess Ilse Bullit sent us a New Year greeting with the words: ‘I listen to you every day. You are my eyes to the world.’ That’s a heavy responsibility."

The honorary doctorate will be presented on 30 May in Paraguay.

(Source : Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

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