Report to the 70th General Assembly

Santiago, Chile

October 17 – 21, 2014

The country is considered of high-risk for the exercise of journalism with two cases of murder due to professional reasons. The very high indices of impunity have been stressed by the cases of murder, attempts and attacks of every kind suffered by mass media and journalists. According to the reports and statistics published by the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH), 91% of journalists' murders remain unpunished.

During this period, we received a report on the prohibition imposed on journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado from exercising his profession for 16 months. The ruling stemmed from a criminal action for defamation. In a previous legal award, Alvarado was forced to pay a fine in exchange of imprisonment for the crime of defamation.

The claim filed in 2012 was lodged after Mr. Alvarado gave opinions and conducted interviews in his program "Mi Nación" Globo TV, about the alleged irregular appointment of a dean of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAM).

Other similar actions were also filed against several communicators who express the urgency to decriminalize injury, slander and defamation.

In August of 2012, during a conference organized by IATA in the country, the then President Porfirio Lobo committed to foster the decriminalization of injury, slander and defamation, promise that the government has not yet fulfilled.

Public authority provisions and resolutions limiting access to public information are still in force, thus weakening the efforts to achieve greater degree of transparency of public issues.

These are the most relevant cases recorded in the last six-month period:

On April 11th, Carlos Hilario Mejía Orellana, marketing and sales manager of Radio Progreso of the city of El Progreso, Yoro department was murdered. Mejía Orellana, of 35 years had worked in the radio station of Compañía de Jesús for 13 years. He had been stabbed to death and was found in his residence.

The Inter American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) had granted Mejía Orellana and other members of the group from the Reflection, Investigation and Communications Team of the radio protection measures since 2009, after they claimed being the object of death threats.

On July 20 there was found dead journalist Herlyn Espinal, who several days earlier had disappeared. Espinal worked as a reporter with Televicentro and Noticiero Hoy Mismo news in San Pedro Sula. Security officials reported the death of a person that they identified, with "97% certainty," as the mastermind of the murder.

On August 14th, journalist Nery Francisco Soto Torres was killed: he was working as presenter of the newscast on Channel 23, Municipality of Olanchito, Yoro department. Soto Torres, of 32 years was attacked by unknown individuals who shot him when he was getting home, back from work. He was also the co-producer of the program "Cuarto Poder" of Radio Full FM.

In this period we have reported the murder of four other journalists, but in these cases there is no hint these could be related to professional reasons.

On August 6th, the Law on the Protection of Human Rights Advocates, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators was approved at the National Congress after being discussed in a second instance on the 18th of that month. IATA applauded the measure, but criticized the lack of relationship of the law with other government sectors such as Health and the Public Ministry; the little clarity on the budget, and the weak operational and oversight capacity which could affect the implementation and the efficacy of the measure.