"Since that moment, I try to make my students recognize the danger and the risk they can be exposed to when they work as journalists."
Marisabel Bellido Terán is an educator at Gastón Villa Casso B school on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia, where she teaches her students, many of whom are new to urban life, how to write news about problems in their city and reflect on the profession of journalism in collaboration with Bolivia's Fundación para el Periodismo, which encourages student journalism and provides media literacy training.
Marisabel has learned first-hand about the kinds of threats researching a tough story can bring. Through the Fundación, Global Youth & News Media asked her to tell her story.
By Marisabel Bellido Terán
It all begins in June of 2014; I had noticed that most of my students were being threatened at when they leave the school. Also, in one of the corners of our establishment, there were people selling drugs.
One day I had decided to wait to the end of the classes. I had been informed that there were a lot of guys bothering my students, so I immediately I went to the police and we pursued them.
Since that moment I realized that there was something bad occurring in the school, so I began to investigate it believing to elaborate a reportage in our newspaper. I knew that it was pretty risky, so I decided to begin it by myself.
By asking some students in a confidential way I got some details about who were those guys which were making a lot of troubles in my school.
One night, when I was arriving a little late from school, this young guy with a very big looking came to me and started asking me why was I investigating about him, also, he said that if I kept asking something bad could happen to me.
Since that moment it began the threatens, one with another for several months. They had been telling me that if I kept investigating, they would “chuncear” (slash me with a knife). Those messages came to me though students which were part of the famous crew called “Los Chemos”, It was recognize by being violent. But nevertheless, most of the nights those guys from the crew waited for me until the night at the school. The worst thing was that those days I was used to transported by bus, in one occasion they had me cornered, I had to flee on a colleague's motorcycle.
All of this staff had affected my health conditions especially my nerves. I had medical treatment with neurologist, I was consuming a lot of medicines to the point I was high. The worst thing was that I noticed that I had been pregnant for 4 months and I could not take care properly of my pregnancy, therefore, I lost my baby. That part was one of the saddest moments I live as a teacher.
It all ended up one afternoon when I was making the cultural hour. Most of the members of the crew achieved enter to our establishment by climbing the walls; luckly, I could saw them and I warned to the principal. Several teachers could catch some of the crew’s members, the other escaped the same way the had entered. We let the guy we caught to the police. The officers make him to call to his parents and sign a warranty certificate, in this document was stated that if something could happen to me or my family, he and his family assumed the responsibility.
Since that moment, the threats ceased, but this experience left me a deep wound. Nevertheless, this could not stop me to work as a teacher neither apart me to integrate the mass media in my classroom. For now, I take it with more careful.
Since that moment I try to make my students recognize the danger and the risk they can be exposed when they work as journalists.
Therefore, I began to introduce some workshops about this topic, and we always try to analyze the situation and we determine if it is necessary to escort them when they are making investigations and reportages.
This video offers more background about Marisabel Belido Terán and her teaching of communications and language at Gastón Vilar Casso B school near Sucre, Bolivia.In Spanish with English subtitles, courtesy of The Foundation for Journalism of Bolivia. [00:03:31]
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