Honduran journalist flees the country after attacks

New York, April 1, 2010—Honduran journalist José Alemán fled the country on Sunday after threatening attacks, including the break-in of two unidentified gunmen at his home in the rural municipality of San Marcos de Ocotepeque, near the border with El Salvador, the local press reported. The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for Honduran authorities to provide protection for Alemán that would allow him to return to the country and continue his work.

Alemán, a correspondent for the daily Tiempo and the national broadcaster Radio América in San Marcos de Ocotepeque, received an anonymous phone call Sunday around 8 a.m., insulting him and warning him to stop reporting the news, according to local media reports. The call came about 20 seconds after Radio América broadcast his report on a shooting on Sunday between Honduran police and alleged criminals in San Marcos de Ocotepeque, the local press said.

Later that day, two unidentified armed men broke into Alemán’s home and fired their guns in the journalist’s bedroom, witnesses told the Honduran media. The journalist was not home. He learned about the attack at the local police station, where he had gone after a car tried to cut him off as he was riding a bicycle early in the day, the press reported. He fled into a narrow street and went to the local police station, a Tiempo manager who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for his safety told CPJ.

Alemán stayed at the police station until he decided to leave the country late in the evening, the manager said. A journalist for Tiempo based in Tegucigalpa who also asked to remain anonymous told CPJ that Honduran authorities have not identified any suspects or disclosed possible motives behind the harassment.

Five journalists were targeted and killed in Honduras in March.

“The intimidation of José Alemán is particularly alarming given the unprecedented wave of journalists’ murders that has swept Honduras in the past month,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The authorities must send a clear message that attacks and threats against journalists will not be tolerated. They must vigorously pursue those behind these threats and provide protection for Alemán so that he can return home in safety.”

Unidentified attackers gunned down Honduran journalists José Bayardo Mairena and Manuel Juárez in the department of Olancho on March 27. On March 14, journalist Nahúm Palacios Arteaga was killed in the city of Tocoa, while radio reporter David Meza was slain in the city of La Ceiba on March 11. On March 1, reporter Joseph Hernández Ochoa was killed in Tegucigalpa in a shooting that left another journalist seriously wounded.