UNESCO’s psychological support group sessions are helping refugee journalists in Central America slowly rebuild their lives following traumatic and life-changing experiences.
Through the Central American Support Network for Refugee Journalists launched by the UNESCO Cluster Office in Costa Rica in December 2020, over 25 journalists have been participating in monthly group psychological support group sessions.
As a result of impunity, kidnappings, attempted murders, intimidation, and digital attacks, many of these journalists were forced to flee their homes and countries in order to protect themselves and their families.
However, even though they are residing in more secure locations, they are still grappling with the psychological effects including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) anxiety, panic attacks, stress and nightmares related to previous attacks against them.
According to one refugee journalist: “The monthly sessions helped me to realize that I am not the only one who has had certain experiences that put me in emotional, psychological, social, physical and spiritual conflict. It helped me to get the energy to do new things and to eliminate the limitations that prevented me from achieving my objectives.”
A similar sentiment was shared by another participant who noted: “The sessions provided her with the opportunity to bring out traumatic experiences, not feeling alone, and creating bonds with my colleagues…I also received a lot of motivation and encouragement from my colleagues…”
The benefits of the sessions were also expressed by another participant who highlighted that they allowed us to vent and raise the problems or experiences that we do not know how to handle…
In addition to the focus on providing psychological support, the Central American Support Network places emphasis on promoting and building solidariary among refugee journalists and capacity building in areas related to freedom of expression.
The initiative counts on the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and is linked to UNESCO´s mandate on promoting press freedom and free expression, and its coordinating role in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.