69th General Assembly

Denver, Colorado

October 18 – 22, 2013

There has been no end in this period to the climate of lack of safety of the press, the abduction and murder of journalist Aníbal Barrow in San Pedro Sula standing out. Some of the alleged perpetrators have been arrested, but not the mastermind. Since 2003 there have been 36 murders of journalists, only one has come to trial and resulted in a conviction, which means that 99% of the cases remain unsolved. The government is maintaining in effect arbitrary instructions that restrict access to public information, particularly in the Security Ministry where information is denied and this is limited to occasional bulletins issued by the ministry’s Public Relations Office. Added to this is a government discourse that for months was an open confrontation with news media, in promoting from the executive branch of government the “Telecommunications Sector Umbrella Law” which contains elements that violate principles of freedom of expression and infringe human rights such as free assembly, the right and access to work, and the right to private property, among others. The bill was tabled in the National Congress and its discussion was aborted by the execution of a “self-regulation” pact subscribed to by some news media. That law was one of the things that motivated an official IAPA mission to Honduras, which was fundamental for the passage of this bill to be suspended. The government of Honduras has not complied with commitments made at the national and international levels, including those proposed by the IAPA on mechanisms for the protection of journalists. The most relevant cases in this period: In May Elías Chahin, president of the Association of Independent Radio and Television Stations of Honduras, was beaten up by several individuals on leaving a radio station. Chahin was opposed to the Telecommunications Sector Law and attributed the attack to his position on that. He also reported that his home was attacked some days before by people who intended to set it on fire. A press team from the TV channel Hable como Habla (Speak As You Would Speak) suffered a criminal attack in the city of La Ceiba at the hands of hitmen riding motorcycles who shot nine times at the vehicle in which were traveling reporter Ramón Maldonado and his cameraman, but neither was injured. Maldonado said the attack on him “could be linked to reports about the local mayor’s office.” Subsequently other members of that channel have also received death threats. On June 24 the abduction occurred of journalist Aníbal Barrow of Globo TV. His dismembered and burned body was found on July 9. Following the murder the IAPA insisted on the urgent need to create a system of protection of journalists. Barrow, 58, was an agricultural engineer and professor of Economy at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras university in San Pedro Sula. On July 16 journalist Mario Castro, with the program “El Látigo Contra La Corrucpión” (The Anti-Corruption Whip) broadcast by Globo TV, reported having received several text messages in which he was threatened with facing the same fate as his colleague and friend Aníbal Barrow. In July journalist Joel Coca, correspondent of Canal 11 television and host of the program “Más Noticias” (More News) on Multi Cable in Puerto Cortés, was attacked on leaving work by two persons, who hit him with a bat and declared that “they had been sent only to beat me up.” Coca later left the country, citing lack of guarantees for his personal safety and threats to his family. In September journalists from El Heraldo reported that they were the object of threats by security staff of the Escuela Hospital in Tegucigalpa, who said they had received “orders from above to follow the staff of the news media outlet” and prevent them from doing their job. In October journalist Esdras Amado López, news director of Canal 36 television in Cholusat Sur, said he had received a phone call from a senior government official warning him there was information that his name was on a list of people against whom there could be attacks and that he should take due steps for his protection. López also reported that he had not received any kind of protection from the authorities.