Attacks Against Free Speech in Honduras: A Brutality without Precedent

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Friday, 07 May 2010 12:00
On May 4th, the government of Porfirio Lobo in Honduras inaugurated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with investigating the “acts that occurred before, during and after June 28, 2009.” Though the U.S. administration welcomed the launching of the commission, Honduran and international human rights organizations, including the Center for Justice and International Law, said the commission was “born dead” as it had no mandate to investigate the numerous human rights violations committed since the June 28 military coup d’Etat.  Honduras’ human rights NGOs presented a proposal for an alternative truth commission that, in the words of COFADEH coordinator Bertha Oliva, would involve “an open discussion and a thorough consultation of the victims of these violations.”  COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained, has documented hundreds of attacks and other rights violations that have taken place since the coup, including over “47 assassinations of anti-coup activists, 14 of which have occurred since the inauguration of Mr. Lobo.”

Further confirmation of the grave deterioration of the human rights situation in Honduras can be found in a detailed report on freedom of speech released on May 3rd  by the Tegucigalpa-based organization Committee for Free Speech, or C-Libre.  Though it has received scant attention in the media, the report (which can be accessed here in Spanish) offers an alarming and scathing account of the attacks endured by Honduran media outlets and journalists critical of the June 28 coup. 

C-Libre, run by independent journalists and civil society actors, has been publishing annual reports on attacks against free speech in Honduras since 2005.  The reports rigorously document a broad array of abuses including assassinations and acts of intimidation against journalists, the closure of media outlets and acts of censorship. 

The 2009 C-Libre report, entitled “A Brutality without Precedent”, states that, in the context of the coup, the “order of the day was censorship, persecution, sabotage, the confiscation of equipment, threats to the physical integrity of [media workers] and the imposition of measures that restricted or limited the free exercise of journalism.” 

According to the report’s authors, in 2009 alone, 329 attacks were documented, in contrast with an average of 42 attacks per year between 2005 and 2008.  A chronological list of violations shows that 18 of the attacks took place before the June 28 coup and 311 took place afterwards.  The report states that 88 percent of attacks that took place after June 28th were perpetrated by sectors “identified as sympathetic to the de facto government.”  

Unfortunately, the attacks against journalists in Honduras have continued unabated in 2010 and assassinations of journalists have actually increased.  Since the presidential inauguration of Porfirio Diaz on February 27th, at least six Honduran journalists have been killed according to Amnesty International and other rights groups.  So far these killings remain uninvestigated by Honduras’ judicial authorities.