Honduran killing fields for journalists
Over the past year, the international focus on Honduras has been on the illegal ousting of the elected president in a military coup and the failure of the Organization of American States to act. International observers failed to find irregularities with the recent presidential election, despite widespread military repression of grassroots protest.
Meanwhile, in this Central American country, journalists are dying this year at a rate second only to Mexico. After the murder of a third journalist in Honduras in two weeks - eight since the beginning of 2009 - the International Press Institute has called on President Porfirio Lobo to take immediate action. All three journalists received death threats before their executions in recent attacks, as described in an IPI report:
On Monday, 1 March, Joseph Hernández Ochoa, 24, a journalism student at the University of Honduras, and a former entertainment presenter on the TV station Canal 51, was shot and killed whilst travelling in a car with radio presenter Carol Cabrera. Ms. Cabrera was broadcasting live on air for her show “El ángel de la controversia” on Radio Cadena Voce, via her telephone, when the attack happened in Tegucigalpa. She was injured in the attack, suffering a broken arm and ribs, and underwent emergency surgery. Their car had been fired on at least 36 times. It is believed that Ms. Cabrera was the intended target.
On Thursday, 11 March, David Meza Montesinos, a reporter at radio station El Patio for more than 30 years, was killed while driving home in La Ceiba. His car was shot at from another vehicle, causing him to lose control and crash into a house near his own home.
On Sunday, 14 March, Nahúm Palacios Arteaga, 36, the news director for television channel Canal 5 in Aguán and host of a news programme on Radio Tocoa, was shot dead in Tocoa, Colón. Another person travelling in the car with him was severely wounded, and a cameraman riding in the back was grazed by a bullet. The car was riddled with 42 bullet holes.
In Ottawa on March 17, Peter Kent, minister of state for Latin America, put out a statement:
“Canada condemns the recent series of murders of journalists in Honduras. Violence against journalists constitutes an attack on the basic principles of freedom of the press and freedom of expression. It is particularly troubling in a country that recently emerged from a long political impasse and is now trying to achieve national reconciliation. We extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims.“Canada calls on the Honduran authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate these crimes and prosecute those responsible. Canada also urges the Honduran government to take all necessary measures to guarantee freedom of the press and freedom of expression."