Posts Tagged ‘Honduras’


Threats to Mexican Media Continue Unabated

Washington Post reporter Dana Priest has an excellent piece on the threats Mexican journalists face everyday: Censor or die: The death of Mexican news in the age of drug cartels

For anyone who has paid attention to what is going on in Mexico, this is not news, but confirmation that the war against the cartels is not going so well in Mexico.

The Mexican media was just getting out from under the thumb of the oddly named Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)  that ran Mexico for most of its 100+ years. A breakdown in the control PRI had meant journalists could start actually being journalists instead of stenographers for the government.

Then the cartels started gaining strength — with the help of corrupt national and local officials.

Suddenly the threats to free and independent journalism was no longer the loss of a job, but death.

As Priest notes:

Submitting to cartel demands is the only way to survive, said Hildebrando “Brando” Deandar Ayala, 39, editor in chief of El Mañana, one of the oldest and largest newspapers in the region with a print circulation of 30,000. “You do it or you die, and nobody wants to die,” he said. “Auto censura — self-censorship — that’s our shield.”

Just some items from the past 10 years:

In Mexico, as in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the issue is not government censorship but death threats from criminal cartels. The inability of the governments to address the issue speaks volumes about the corruption and weak legal systems in these countries.

To be clear though, it does not mean the governments have a policy of media repression. Too many observers of Latin America see any attacks on journalists — or civic society activists — as being ordered by the local or national government. Unfortunately the threats are essentially from the “private sector” — the cartels. The law enforcement systems in these countries are so weak that the threats against journalists — and civic society activists — either are not investigated or such a weak case is built against the murderers that they go free.

This impunity cartels enjoy can only be stopped if the governments are provided enough support and help to fight back. That is why cutting support to programs that seek to build stronger legal systems is not the way to go.

This item first appeared in Journalism, Journalists and The World.

Honduran Money Laundering Arrests Affect Major News Outlets

The US government arrested Honduran Yanki Rosenthal when he landed in Miami October 6 on charges of money laundering. The next day indictments were handed down for other members of his family.

While many in the world media are focusing on Yanki’s ownership of a major Honduran soccer team and the family’s ownership of the bank Grupo Continental, the reach of the Rosenthal family is much more extensive.

For journalists, the indictments hit close to home.

The Rosenthals own one of the major newspapers — El Tiempo — and a national TV outlet — Canal 11.

How the Honduran press handled the arrest and indictments clearly showed the biases

El Tiempo lead with:

The Continental Group issued a statement rejecting the accusations made Wednesday the Treasury Department of the United States, where several companies linked to the group of the crime of money laundering. Facing accusations Continental Group denies allegations of money laundering involving companies in the Continental Group.

Competitor El Heraldo, however, went with:

The US attorney in Manhattan announced charges Wednesday against four Hondurans by “laundering of proceeds of drug trafficking and bribery crimes through accounts in the United States.

Rolando Jaime Rosenthal Oliva, Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo, Yankel Rosenthal and Andrew Acosta Garcia Coello “were charged in connection with a conspiracy carried out over several years to launder profits from drug crimes,” said the office of the Southern District of New York.

The newspapers — and television news outlets — have never been shy about showing off the political leanings of the owners. It will now be interesting to see how the news media handle the trials of one of the five big families of Honduras.

What will be important for foreign journalists to pay attention to will not be the cat fight that is sure to be played out in the front pages, but rather if (when) the number of life-threatening threats against journalists covering this case increases.

Journalists in Honduras have faced numerous threats — not so much from the government as from the narcos. Threats will most likely come against anyone digging deeply into this story.

THIS IS BIG! In the past, the US and Honduran governments have acted against drug kingpins and their holdings. This is the first time there is a major move against such a prominent family and such large corporate holdings in the country. Among those indicted are a former president of the country and a presidential candidate for the Liberal Party, the mainstream opposition party to the ruling National Party.

Grupo Continental is one of the largest banks in Honduras. Its holding extend deeply into Honduran society, including — as noted — the news media.

Under Honduran law, the property and goods of indicted individuals is put under the control of the Administrative Office of Seized Goods (OABI). When a major narco was arrested, OABI took over control of his private zoo, which was occasionally opened to the public. OABI brought in animal experts to evaluate and run the zoo and kept it open to the public. (The narco zoo was much larger than the Tegucigalpa Zoo, but the animals were in much worse shape.)

Seized gym equipment was donated to outreach centers to help keep young people active in safe (non-gang related) activities. Likewise, OABI arranged for a boat, including fuel and maintenance for the boat, so a school in Cayos Cochinos could make sure the kids got an education. (The islands are inhabited by some of the poorest people in Honduras.)

The director of OABI fought corrupt bosses and politicians before he rose to the top job. Once he took command of the organization, he made sure everything was handled by the book. (In other words, no more seized cars for a political leader, just because he wants one.)

The director understands and operates OABI under a transparent and open system. He also understands that fighting back against intimidation is important part of beating corruption. His heart and mind are in the right place to allow El Tiempo and Channel 11 operate as fair and independent news outlets, if they are seized under the law.

He might even appoint a director of the newspaper and TV channel who will encourage the journalists in those groups to step out from the partisan restrictions of the current owners. And maybe even help arrange for some additional training.

And if anyone is looking for a success story about the fight against corruption, a profile of OABI and its director is a good place to start.

Intimidation and shooting of Honduran journalists continues

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports on the latest attack on journalists in Honduras.

Honduran community radio director shot; staff threatened

Franklin Meléndez, 35, who directs the Voz de Zacate Grande community radio station in southern Valle province, was shot on March 13 at a local bar, according to CPJ interviews and local press reports. Meléndez told CPJ that he was approached by two men angered by the station’s critical coverage of local land disputes as he and two colleagues were playing billiards. According to Meléndez, one of the men threatened him and as he was retreating, the second man shot him in the left thigh. A second shot was fired but missed him.

The two assailants, who Meléndez recognized as relatives of a prominent landowner in the region, followed him before the radio director was able to flee on bicycle, he told CPJ. He was later driven to a hospital in nearby Choluteca, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet.

Rest of report.

The CPJ reports that nine journalists have been killed in Honduras since March 2010. At least three of the killings are tied directly to their work.

The Committee published a special report in July that showed a pattern of negligence on the part of authorities in investigating the killings.

Update on Honduras: RSF speaks out on killings

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Last week the Honduran deputy security minister Armando Calidonio said that none of the ten murders of journalists in Honduras last year were connected to the victim’s work.

International journalism rights groups disagreed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists claim three deaths were because of the journalists’ work.

Reporters Without Borders have now added their comments: Minister insists no journalist was murdered in connection with their work.

Bottom line: No one really believes that NONE of the deaths were related to journalism.

One of the three journalists killed in 2010 in an apparent connection with his work, Nahum Palacios Arteaga, was gunned down after repeated harassment and threats from military personnel in the Aguán region, where there is a great deal of repression.

In the meantime, the Honduran Committee for Free Expression reports that Esdras López, of Canal 36-Cholusat. was threatened in Tegucigalpa by an army lieutenant-colonel. The station was critical of the coup last year.

Small comfort: Honduran gov’t says journalists not specific targets

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

I’m not sure if this makes anyone feel any better but the Honduran government issued a statement yesterday (1/5) that the 10 journalists killed in that country last year nine were not killed because of their jobs.

Honduras’ assistant security minister says nine of the 10 killings of journalists that have occurred this year were unrelated to the media workers’ jobs.

Armando Calidonio says nine of the slayings were due to motives unrelated to the journalists’ work, but he did not say what those motives were.

In the past, Honduran authorities have cited motives like personal disputes in some of the deaths.

The Committee to Protect Journalists disagrees. It states that three of the 10 journalists killed last year were targeted because of their work.

FYI, Honduras has the highest murder rate in Central America at 66.8 per 100,000 people. That rate makes it more than 10 times more dangerous than New York City (5.6 per 100,000).

So there may be something to the government’s latest report. Let’s face it. Honduras is not a safe place. But that doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t pursue the killings with vigor.

Speaking of Honduras…

The situation for journalists in Honduras is not getting any better.

The International Federation of Journalists issued a statement this week condemning the recent killings of three journalists in Honduras.

Joseph Hernández Ochoa, a former TV presenter was killed March1, David Meza Montesinos, a radio reporter died March 11 and fellow reporter Nahum Palacios Arteaga was murdered three days later. All killings were carried out in drive- by shootings.

The IFJ says journalists are victims of organised crime as the country struggles to restore political dialogue and law and order in the wake of last year’s coup d’état which sparked political unrest in the country. The Federation accused at the time the coup leaders of attacking journalists and closing media in Honduras.

And watcher of all things journalistic in Latin America, Robert Buckman has a piece in the SPJ magazine, The Quill. (Quill Feature: Between the Sword and the Wall)

Buckman’s article looks at the state of press freedom before the coup against the government of Manuel Zelaya and after under the government of Roberto Micheletti.

In 2005, emulating what [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chavez had done in Venezuela, Zelaya issued an executive decree mandating that the private stations carry 2½ hours a day of talk shows hosted by pro-Zelaya journalists who interviewed pro-Zelaya guests. Zelaya justified the decree in the interest of balance. He also expropriated Channel 8, turning it into a government mouthpiece.

And

The Micheletti government rescinded the decree mandating pro-Zelaya programming. Then, on Sept. 28, adopting the philosophy of “do unto others as others did unto you,” Micheletti issued his own decree closing the nettlesome Canal 36 cable TV channel and Radio Globo for “threatening peace and order.”

Honduras may no longer be a major story for the main stream media, but it is still a situation that needs to watched closely.

Cross posted with Journalism, Journalists and the World.

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