New York, February 16, 2018–Honduran authorities should take swift action to identify and bring to justice the man who attempted to stab television reporter César Omar Silva during a live broadcast, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
An unidentified man on February 13 approached Silva while he was reporting outside the Mario Mendoza Psychiatric Hospital in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa and lunged at the reporter with a knife, though did not succeed in stabbing him, according to news reports and video footage of the attack. Following the attack, the man circled Silva for another minute before walking away up the street. Silva, who hosts a local news program on the Une TV channel, was not physically harmed in the incident.
The attempted attack on Silva occurred amid ongoing political unrest in Honduras following the reelection of President Juan Orlando Hernández and a subsequent security crackdown, according to reports.
Silva told CPJ he filed a police report and reported the incident to the national Human Rights Attorney General’s office and human rights civil society groups.
“This brazen attack against a journalist on live television is a frightening example of the dangers journalists in Honduras face simply for doing their job,” said CPJ’s Executive Director Joel Simon. “Honduran authorities must use the available evidence to swiftly identify César Silva’s attacker and ensure he is brought to justice.”
The national police’s investigative unit and the National Human Rights Commission did not answer CPJ’s calls seeking comment.
Silva told CPJ the man originally approached him and his cameraman a few minutes before 9 a.m., while they were setting up for his daily program “Caminando con Silva” (“Walking with Silva”), which features Silva walking through Tegucigalpa neighborhoods and conducting man-on-the-street interviews on topics of national interest.
The man verbally accosted Silva, criticizing his reporting and threatening him for several minutes before walking away. He returned about five minutes later, after the live broadcast had started, then attacked Silva with a knife he had concealed under an article of clothing. In the video, the man can be heard saying “I’m going to kill you” and cursing at Silva.
Silva said that a nearby police officer and a hospital employee both told the attacker to leave him alone, but the police officer did not try to detain the man or take away his weapon before the attacker escaped.
Silva has faced threats and harassment dating back to the coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 when he covered human rights violations by military police and state security forces. In December 2009, three armed men kidnapped him from a taxi and took him to a clandestine detention center, where he was held and tortured for 24 hours, according to news reports and the journalist.
Since December 2009, security officials have repeatedly denied Silva access to government buildings and verbally threatened him in response to his reporting, he told CPJ.
In January 2015, the security head for the president of the National Congress denied Silva access to the congressional building to cover a session on military policy, according to Amnesty International. Most recently, on January 18, 2018, security guards again prevented him from entering the building to cover the final session of the 2014-2018 Congress, according to Guatemalan press freedom organization CERIGUA.
Honduran journalists have experienced increased aggression and harassment from both security forces and civilians in the wake of violent protests following contested presidential elections in November 2017, according to local human rights groups.