Journalists repeatedly attacked at Honduran online daily

Unidentified individuals harassed and attacked journalists working at the Tegucigalpa offices of the online daily three times in two weeks, according to CPJ interviews and local news reports. Though the attacks appeared to be robberies, the daily’s director told CPJ he believed they were retaliation for the‘s reporting on corruption in the Honduran government. 

At 1:30 p.m. on May 29, 2009, two armed individuals stormed into offices and held at least five journalists at gunpoint for several minutes in the newsroom, said a reporter who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal. The assailants, who said the attack was a robbery, stole the reporters’ cameras and cell phones before fleeing, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews.

At 2 p.m. on June 8, four individuals fired at least one shot outside‘s offices, broke the main door down, and forced their way into the daily’s newsroom, Arístides Aceituno,‘s director, told CPJ. The armed assailants held at least 30 of the daily’s employees hostage for half an hour after disconnecting the phone lines and smashing the Internet router, reported. They fired several gunshots into the air but no one was injured.  The assailants demanded cell phones and cash, said a journalist who spoke to CPJ. As the attackers were fleeing, they stole a motorcycle but left all the employees’ cell phones behind. 

Hours after the assault, the daily published a report saying the attack was an attempt by government officials to intimidate Aceituno told CPJ that the site had recently reported on high-level government corruption.

Two individuals aboard motorcycles intercepted two reporters outside the daily’s offices around 7 p.m. on June 12, and attempted to rob them, Aceituno told CPJ. The reporters escaped with the help of security guards working at a nearby store.

A day after the second attack, on June 9, Aceituno lodged a formal complaint with the national Human Rights Commission, which is handling the investigation. In an e-mail message to CPJ, Melvin Duarte, the Public Ministry’s spokesman, said authorities are looking into reports that the attacks may be linked to government officials. Duarte said investigators are also looking at other possible leads.