Saturday, October 24, 2009

Investigative report on 'ex-gay' therapy centers in Ecuador draws prestigious journalism award

In May of last year, I picked up on a 2-part investigative report that ran in Ecuador's El Universo on a number of unregulated and illegal centers for the supposed treatment of homosexuality ("Ecuador: Kidnapping, torture, confinement at 'ex-gay' therapy centers").

The disturbing articles, which also drew attention from Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin ("Ex-gay torture chambers in Ecuador"), revealed that there were more than 140 centers throughout the country claiming to cure homosexuality. Most heartbreakingly, those who were interviewed at these centers were teens or young adults sent there against their will by their parents. There was also a strong link between religious fervor and the nature of the teachings at these sites.

Today comes word that reporters María Alejandra Torres Reyes and Marjorie Ortíz received a 3rd place mention for Latin America in the prestigious Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize for both articles. The award, established in 1992 by the European Commission, "is awarded to journalists for outstanding reporting on Human Rights, Democracy and Development", according to press materials. This year, more than 1,000 journalist entries from 133 countries were submitted for consideration.

From the award site:
The investigative report discovered and denounced clandestine centres (which called themselves "clinics"), that offered to "remove" and "cure" homosexuality in exchange for money and, in most cases, with the permission of the family of the supposed "patients". The owners used violent and illegal methods. The "therapies" included beatings, electricity on the genitals, pornographic videos, taking hard drugs and pills for hours or days, and injections of hormones (male or female). Sometimes even rapes occurred. Thanks to this report, the authorities (who were unaware of this issue) closed these torture centres. The media had never spoken of these centres in the country and few people knew that they existed.
El Universo, which reported today on the honors, noted the journalists' reactions.

“I am very happy that a topic as important as this, addressing the gay community of the country, has been recognized internationally," said Marjorie Ortíz. She said that the mention encouraged her to continue investigating after 10 years of working as a journalist.

“We believe that this is also a recognition for those who suffer abuse an torture, such as those we contacted for our reporting," said Maria Alejandra Torres Reyes.

Both reporters were present at the award ceremony that took place on Thursday in Stockholm. Dora Luz Romero Mejia took 2nd prize for a report in La Prensa on twelve women murdered by their partners in Nicaragua, and Joao Antonio Barrios and Thiago Prado took first prize for a series of articles of paramilitary occupation of the shanty-towns of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the police corruption that accompanies it.

I, for one, am thrilled to have found about this tonight and congratulate El Universo and the journalists for the honor. I hope it brings additional attention to the plight of teens who are taken to these type of centers throughout Latin America, often against their will, and that it helps to shut down such illicit ventures once and for all.

1 comment:

libhom said...

This reminds me of Mormon parents subject their lgbt kids to electric shock torture in the name of "therapy."