The Rafto Prize 2015 was awarded to Honduran priest Padre Melo for his defence of freedom of expression in one of the most violent countries in the world.
Padre Melo is a 57-year-old Jesuit priest with a background in philosophy and theology, working as a journalist and human rights defender. He plays a central role in two important human rights organizations: Radio Progreso and Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC). He also founded the Honduran edition of the regional journal Envío and the Honduran journal A Mecate Corto, both of which analyze current social problems. Through his use of radio, his writings, and in his work as a priest, Padre Melo has become an important public advocate of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights in Honduras.
The radio station gives a voice to human rights activists, trade unions, small farmers and organizations that rarely have access to the private and national media. It criticizes the way in which democracy is practiced in Honduras, the corruption and other crimes executed with impunity by people in positions of authority, and policies that threaten natural resources and indigenous land rights. The station strongly criticized the military coup against Zelaya in 2009, following which it was occupied by the military and temporarily closed down.
'If you don't see things from the viewpoint of the groups whose rights are being constantly violated and whose freedom of expression has been taken from them, then tell me: where is the Christian gospel?'
Padre Melo is not affiliated to any specific political party. He is critical of the power elite, but also of the political left, for not looking after the interests of the people. As a result of his strong public voice and poignant analysis of society, he enjoys great respect among a wide range of social groups, including, indigenous peoples, women, LGBTI people and youth groups.