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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

FEBRUARY 24, 2003

Germán Antonio Rivas, Corporación Maya Visión-Canal 7

Rivas, owner of the local TV station Corporación Maya Visión-Canal 7, was shot by an unidentified assailant outside his house in the western city of Santa Rosa, near the border between Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

The attack occurred in the evening hours, as Rivas was arriving home after finishing his station's daily news program, he told CPJ. As Rivas exited the car to open the garage door, the attacker, who was hidden, fired a single shot and fled. The shot missed Rivas, hitting the pavement. Rivas then went into his house and called the police, who arrived about 20 minutes later. Officers searched the area but left soon because it was dark and they did not have adequate lighting. Two people, including a neighborhood guard, witnessed the attack.

The next day, Rivas and the neighborhood guard searched for evidence, found a gun that appeared to have been used in the shooting, and turned it over to police. Officers told Rivas it was a .30-caliber weapon. They sent it to a lab in the capital, Tegucigalpa, for ballistic tests.

In addition to his duties as owner of Corporación Maya Visión, Rivas is the director of the daily news program "CMV Noticias." The program, which is broadcast between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., also airs on radio station Estéreo Maya Visión, which Rivas and his wife own.

The journalist told CPJ he believes that the attack is linked to his journalistic work and cited several sensitive stories that his station had covered. In September 2002, the station's investigative journalism team reported on the smuggling of coffee and cattle from Honduras to Guatemala. (The segment was dropped in December 2002 after its sponsor canceled the contract.) The station has also extensively covered local neighborhood associations that have denounced a local mining company for spilling cyanide into Copán Department's Lara River. The night of the attack, Rivas said, the station reported that the Honduran government had ordered the mining company to pay a fine of 1 million lempiras (around US$60,000).

Félix Molina, deputy coordinator of the Honduran freedom of expression organization Comité para la Libertad de Expresión, said that although the station's crime reporting was not very aggressive, the fact that it covered crime at all could have provoked retaliation.

Rivas, who says he has no enemies, does not have any particular suspects. The day after the attack, he filed a complaint with the General Department of Criminal Investigations, part of the Ministry of Security. Rivas complained that the police had not offered the protection he requested.