Honduran Repression

Free Press Under Attack in Honduras
Written by Kari Lydersen, Thursday, 22 November 2007

As Carlos Salgado walked out of the Radio Cadena Voces station in Tegucigalpa around 4 p.m. on Oct. 18, two gunmen fired seven shots at him and killed him instantly.

The murder of the 67-year-old creator of the popular satirical program “Frijol, El Terible” is being seen across Honduras as the latest example of brutal repression of journalists by the administration of president Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Two weeks after Salgado’s murder, the head of Radio Cadena Voces, Dagoberto Rodriguez, fled to the U.S. with his family after being informed by police of a tip that he would be assassinated within 72 hours. Police reportedly said his would-be assassins were not connected to the killers of Salgado. Though the department obviously has inside knowledge of the planned murder, there have been no arrests made.

Rodriguez said he had been followed by a car with mirrors continuously in recent weeks, and other journalists at Radio Cadena Voces have also reported receiving death threats and harassment from people they believe to be linked to the government.

For example reporter Edgardo Escoto said he got a call on his cell phone while covering a funeral in September saying, “If you carry on pissing us off, we will bury you like this.”

The station’s website was also hacked and sabotaged; at one point the content was replaced with pornography.

Meanwhile on Sept. 7, Channel 13 TV reporter Geovanny Garcia was shot during broad daylight and hit in the hand. Garcia, who left the country after the attack, had reported on official corruption related to street paving and repair contracts.
Also in September, Martin Ramirez, a reporter for La Tribuna newspaper, received multiple threats after running a story on maras (gangs) and their ties to police. The threats intensified after police publicly identified Ramirez.

Journalists and human rights groups in Honduras say the attacks are likely precipitated and tolerated by government officials in response to media reports on government corruption.

“The murder of Carlos Salgado confirms the deterioration in press freedom in Honduras,” says a statement from the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders. “The worsening and terrible climate between the government of Manuel Zelaya and the media unfortunately contributes to this situation.”

Zelaya has responded in the press that the attacks are the work of well-organized crime groups, and that the government will provide extra protection for journalists who request it. Police spokesman Hector Ivan Mejia told El Heraldo that the attacks could be the work of a few people trying to create a crisis and fear among journalists.

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