Honduras fails to move on journalists’ killings

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

There is probably no Central American country that has held so much attention in the past year than Honduras.

A group of center-right forces depose the leftist government. The country is cut off from the rest of the world because of the coup. A new government is elected without the leftist president ever reinstated to power.

During the rule of the coup leaders, journalists were under fire for reporting on the illegal nature of the coup. (This is not to defend the previous president and government, which was also not too friendly to a free press. But what would you expect from someone who looks to Hugo Chavez for advice.)

Since the new government took power in elections recognized by most governments in the world and by the NGOs that observed the elections, the safety of journalists remains precarious.

A new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that the problem of impunity continues.

Journalist murders spotlight Honduran government failures

From the first of March to the middle of June, seven Honduran broadcast journalists were shot to death, an astonishing number of murders in such a short time in a country of 7.5 million. Six of the murders occurred in the span of just seven weeks, and most were clearly assassinations carried out by hit men. Adding to fear among journalists—and to their questions about who would be next—was the national government’s response: Its initial silence was followed by a period in which a top official dismissed the murders as routine street crimes.

Even though the United States recognized the elections as legitimate and has restored diplomatic relations with Honduras, it has not spared the country from criticism.

Since the election in November 2009, the State Department reports:

The following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings by members of the police and government agents; arbitrary and summary killings committed by vigilantes and former members of the security forces; harsh prison conditions; violence against detainees, and corruption and impunity within the security forces; lengthy pretrial detention and failure to provide due process of law; arbitrary detention and disproportionate use of force by security forces after the June coup; politicization, corruption, and institutional weakness of the judiciary; erosion of press freedom; corruption in the legislative and executive branches; limitations on freedom of movement and association; government restrictions on recognition of some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); violence and discrimination against women; child prostitution and abuse; trafficking in persons; discrimination against indigenous communities; violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation; ineffective enforcement of labor laws; and child labor.

Note that “erosion of press freedom” is part of the concerns in Honduras.

The lack of arrest and punishment of the killers of journalists remains a major problem in Latin America. It is obviously a growing concern in Honduras as well.

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