Journalists who report on sensitive issues such as drug trafficking, government corruption, and land conflicts face frequent threats and attacks in a nation so gripped by violence and lawlessness that it has become one of the most murderous places in the world. The abduction and murder of Ángel Alfredo Villatoro, one of the country’s best-known journalists and a friend of President Porfirio Lobo, made headlines for weeks and prompted nationwide demonstrations against anti-press violence. The authorities did not identify a motive but charged three people in the attack. Reflecting the deep polarization that followed the 2009 military-backed coup, attacks against reporters seen as supportive of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, attracted far less attention and official action. CPJ research shows that the authorities have been slow and negligent in investigating numerous journalist murders and other anti-press crimes since the 2009 coup, even as they have tried to minimize the extent of the violence. Official negligence in the investigations—CPJ found that the authorities often failed to interview witnesses or collect evidence—has made it difficult to determine the motives in many of the cases. While the U.S. Senate said it would withhold some aid from Honduras due to alleged human rights violations by police, the State Department announced the creation of a Bilateral Human Rights Working Group to assist the Honduran government with investigations into journalist murders.
CPJ research has found journalist murders are rarely solved. Convictions have been obtained in one of five cases since 1992. Reporters covering crime, corruption, and politics have been especially vulnerable to attacks.
* Adds up to more than 100 percent because more than one beat applies in certain cases.
CPJ research shows at least three journalists have been murdered in direct relation to their work since the coup. Twelve others have been killed in unclear circumstances, and CPJ continues to investigate.
In separate attacks, gunmen fired on Radio Cadena Voces reporter José Encarnación Chinchilla López, JBN internacional television journalist Selvin Hercules Martínez, and Channel 6 correspondent Elder Joel Aguilar. No fatalities were reported.
A 2011 U.N. report found that Honduras had the world’s highest per capita homicide rate, with 82.1 murders per every 100,000 inhabitants.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.