Honduran radio director ambushed by gunmen

New York, April 29, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Honduran authorities today to offer full protection to Radio Uno Director Arnulfo Aguilar after a group of gunman attempted to enter his home in the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula. The police delayed an hour in responding to Aguilar’s distress call, according to press reports.

At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night, about eight men armed with rifles and wearing ski masks stormed Aguilar’s house in the Chamelecón section of San Pedro Sula as he was returning from work, the journalist told CPJ. He said as he pulled up, he noticed the group of men waiting nearby. The men rushed at him, but Aguilar was able to close and lock his front gate and get inside the house before they arrived, he told CPJ. Several men climbed over a wall and into his yard, but he said his dogs’ barking and a feigned conversation with the police scared them off.

Aguilar said he has received no police protection despite being among the more than 400 journalists and activists the Honduran government is required to protect by order of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Nahúm Palacios Arteaga, a well-known news anchor also slated for protection by IACHR, was gunned down in 2010 following threats.

“This attempted assault on Arnulfo Aguilar and the police’s failure to come to his aid quickly are both incredibly worrying,” said CPJ’s Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We call on authorities to give the full protection to Aguilar they are required to provide by law and bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice.”

According to the journalist, he made four calls to the police emergency number before anyone picked up. He was told that a patrol car was on its way, but it only arrived an hour later. The police drove Aguilar to a secure location and he has not returned to his house since.

Aguilar said he believes the attack came in response to his broadcasts Tuesday and Wednesday nights that critically analyzed a recent U.S. military cable leaked by WikiLeaks. The cable revealed that arms supplied by the U.S. to Honduran Armed Forces had found their way into the hands of drug cartels, according to news reports.

Radio Uno is a cooperative AM station known for its outspoken criticism of the 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya and for its investigations of corruption and irregularities of the current government of President Porfirio Lobo. The station also sponsors a communications high school for. According to Aguilar and to local human rights groups, Radio Uno and its staff have suffered attacks, threats, and intimidation since the coup.

CPJ has recorded a string of recent attacks on broadcast journalists throughout the country. In March, at least seven journalists covering a weeks-long teachers’ protest faced harassment, attack, and detention, CPJ found. Earlier that month, Radio Voz de Zacate Grande director Fanklin Mendez was shot in the leg over the station’s critical coverage of land disputes in the area.