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Honduras: 7 Journalists Killed and Others Threatened

Following the June 28, 2009 coup d'etat and the November 2009 elections that gave the presidency to Porfirio Lobo, Honduras continues in a complicated situation for freedom of expression. In the past 40 days, 7 journalists have been murdered, including the latest case, when Georgino Orellana was killed when he was leaving the offices of his television station on April 21.

Twitterer Jairo Libreros (@jairolibreros) wrote:

Homicidio de periodista hondureño Georgino Orellana evidencia proceso de ascenso de nuevas élites políticas, nada nuevo en América Latina.

The murder of Honduran journalist Georgino Orellano is evidence that there is an ascension of new political elites, nothing new in Latin America.

Honduran Twitterer Eduardo Coto (@eduardocotohrn) knew the victim personally and wrote this shortly after his death:

:( triste, perdí un amigo, Georgino Orellana un excelente periodista, amigo y padre. Basta ya al asesinato de Periodista en Honduras.

:( sad, I lost a friend, Georgino Orellano, an excellent journalist, friend, and father. Enough with the murders of Honduran journalists.

The next day following Orellana's murder, Alejandra Quiroz (@thepurplebug) a journalism student commented on how the traditional media provided sensationalist coverage of the journalist's body, without going in-depth about the causes of the crimes:

Verguenza me da estudiar periodismo encontrar fotografias de Georgino Orellana en La Tribuna y La Prensa!!! ¿Y el respeto!?

I am ashamed of studying journalism to find photographs of Georgino Orellana in the (newspapers) La Tribuna and La Prensa. Where is the respect!?

Up until the end of April the following journalists had been murdered: Nicolás Asfura (42 years-old), television reporter Joseph Hernández (26), television news correspondent of the program “Abriendo Brecha” David Mesa (51), Nahum Palacios (34), who had asked for protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the threats he received from the military after the coup, the journalist Bayardo Mairena (52) and his assistant Manuel Juárez (54) from Excelsior Radio, radio commentator Luis Chévez Hernández (23), and Georgino Orellana (48).

In addition, on April 23, there were various social collectives who called for answers for the disappearance of Oscar Flores, an activist who had marched in all of the protests against the coup that removed former President Mel Zelaya. Flores carried a sign that counted the days of “resistance” and days after the denouncement, he appeared alive showing signs of torture after his disappearance.

Juan Carlos Rivera of the blog Mirada de Halcón [es] re-published a post from Reporters Without Borders, which states that this year Honduras has been classified as the most dangerous country for members of the media. In addition to denouncing the murders, they denounced the death threats against journalists that led to 3 journalists leaving the country in exile.

For activist Juan Almendárez, the murders are of journalists that were against the coup, and have been silenced so that the country's powerful preserve the status quo after the government of Roberto Micheletti. His writes the following text “Why Murder the Word? [es]

Cuando el discurso oral o textual del pueblo amenaza a la oligarquía, fiel servidora del coloniaje del poder mundial; los dirigentes y simpatizantes populares son perseguidos, torturados y asesinados.

El periódico voselsoberano fue objeto de obstrucción por el bloqueo cibernético. El control de la comunicación, lo mismo que todas las entidades estratégicas de energía eléctrica térmica y acuosa; están bajo el control de los jerarcas militares que participaron en el golpe.

When the oral or textual rhetoric of the people threatens the oligarchy, the faithful servant of the colonial world power; leaders and sympathizers are persecuted, tortured and murdered.

The online newspaper voselsoberano was the target of cyber-blockade. The control of communication, like all strategic entities of thermal and water energy; are under control of the military leaders who participated in the coup.

Its website still remains down at the moment.

The threats have not stopped and members of Radio Progress, a station in the city of San Pedro Sula, have received phone calls and messages that attempt to intimidate their communication work. The station was known for remaining on the air during the military repression and document many of the accusations of Human Rights violations that have yet to be investigated. The station belongs to the Honduran Jesuits and other Latin American religious orders that have joined together in protest and sent a letter to the Lobo government.

EXIGIMOS al régimen de Porfirio Lobo Sosa, y a los cuerpos represivos del Estado que únicamente responden a los intereses de la oligarquía; que cesen la persecución, hostigamiento, amenazas a muerte y asesinatos a periodistas y a miembros de la Resistencia Popular a nivel regional y nacional, en total irrespeto a la libertad de expresión y a la vida, y prueba de ello es la muerte violenta de periodistas.

WE DEMAND that the regime of Porfirio Lobo Sosa and the repressive state bodies that only respond to the interests of the oligarchy to stop the persecution, harassment, death threats, and murders of journalists and members of the Popular Resistance on a regional and national level, in total disregard for freedom of expression and of life and proof is the violent deaths of journalists.

The station's director, Father Ismael Moreno, SJ, better known as Father Melo, has also received death threats [es] for providing protection to Irma Melissa, a girl who denounced that she was a victim of rape by the Honduran police during a protest. The blog of Sic Semanal – Centro Gumilla republished the statement [es] by the Jesuits in Honduras calling on investigations on the threats against Father Melo.

President Lobo announced that he has asked for international help to investigate the crimes. Nevertheless, many feel that the state security forces are heavily involved in these threats against those who spoke out against the coup and against those that continue to call for Zelaya to return to the presidency. In the meantime, many in the Honduran media still feel that restrictions have been placed on their work and that this information is not being reported in the international press.

Translation by Eduardo Ávila

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