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Honduras: “Impunity” in journalist killings

The murder of journalists is going uninvestigated in post-coup Honduras, creating “a climate of lawlessness that is allowing criminals to kill journalists with impunity,” according to a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Meanwhile local activists who travelled to Honduras to observe protests on the one-year anniversary of the coup on June 28 met with a Honduran journalist who visited Chicago in March, and who has received numerous death threats.

The CPJ report looks at the killing of seven journalists between March 1 and the middle of June this year, most of them “clearly assassinations carried out by hit men.”  It identifies motives related to the journalists’ work in several cases.

A New York Times article on the CPJ report mentions an official truth commission investigating the coup.  You have to read In These Times to learn that human rights groups are sponsoring an alternative truth commission.

The official truth commission is restricted to issues surrounding the coup itself, and is not charged with looking into human rights violations, according to Victoria Cervantes of La Voz de los de Abajo, a local solidarity group.  Only the alternative commission is investigating the killings, abductions, and torture that have followed in the wake of the coup, she said.

There is continuing “death squad-type activity” that is “very targeted, very deliberate, very specific,” Cervantes said.  And “there is no investigation, no action.  There is total, absolute impunity for violence against journalists and against resistance activists.”

Cervantes was part of the La Voz delegation in June, consisting of a dozen human rights activists, mainly from Chicago.  She said that despite violence, the movement resisting the coup continues to organize, forming neighborhood committees and assemblies in Tegucigalpa and other cities.

At least 100,000 Hondurans marched in protest on June 28, the anniversary of the coup, she said.  (See Kari Lydersen’s report from Honduras on the anniversary protest at In These Times.) In addition to demonstrations in smaller cities, protestors in the countryside blocked highways for hours, she said.

The Chicagoans visited Father Ismael Moreno (known as Father Melo), director of Radio Progreso in a small northern city.  The Jesuit priest has received several death threats – including a call on his cell phone telling him his head would be cut off – and no longer travels alone or at night, Cervantes said.

Moreno visited Chicago in March (see previous post).

Reports from the La Voz delegation are at the Honduras Resist blog.

Last month 27 members of Congress, including Representatives Danny Davis, Bobby Rush, and Jan Schakowsky, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling on the State Department to investigate continuing human rights violations in Honduras (pdf).

The letter notes that nine journalists have been killed and others “have been tortured, kidnapped, and suffered death threats.”

Far from pressing for human rights improvements, the U.S. has been pushing for reinstatement of Honduras’s membership in the Organization of American States, which was suspended after the coup.

Cervantes said an OAS vote slated for this week may be postponed because other Latin American countries continue to oppose reinstatement.

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Category: human rights, international, journalism

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