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Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Commission warns of impunity in 91 percent of violent deaths of media workers in Honduras



From 2001 to the present, 69 media professionals in Honduras have died in violent circumstances, and people have been sentenced in only six of those cases. That is, 91 percent of the deaths remains in impunity, according to a report by the country’s National Commission of Human Rights (CONADEH for its acronym in Spanish).

As part of the World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3, the agency reported that 38 percent of the cases of lethal violence against media representatives in Honduras have occurred from 2014 to the present. In this period, 26 journalists, photographers, videographers, social communicators and media owners have died in a violent manner.

Honduran flag (Wikimedia commons)

Of those 26 cases, only two have been resolved by the justice system and those responsible have been convicted, CONADEH said. One was the case of social communicator of Radio Católica Comunitaria José Artemio Dera, who died on April 23, 2015 when he was hit during a shooting against a judge. The assailant was arrested and a year later was sentenced to 52 years in prison.

The other case was the stabbing of Carlos Hilario Orellana, employee of Radio Progreso of the municipality of Yoro, in April 2014. The person responsible was sentenced to 17 years in prison for murder and robbery.

In the cases of Deras as well as that of Orellana, the motives of the murders were determined by authorities to not be related to their work as media professionals.

In its report, which was handed over to the Honduran Congress, CONADEH “urged authorities in charge of the country’s security to intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes committed against persons linked to the media.”

Violence against journalists or media employees has been recorded in 14 of the 18 departments of Honduras. Of these, the department with the highest number of cases is Francisco Morazán, the home of Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.

Eighteen of the 69 violent deaths from 2001 to the present have occurred here and only one has been resolved by the authorities. It is the kidnapping and murder of journalist Alfredo Villatoro in May 2012.

Cortés, the country’s most populated department, with 1.2 million residents, ranks second with 14 cases, 12 of which are unpunished. The two cases that have led to punishments are those of journalist Georgino Orellano, in 2010, and journalist Aníbal Barrow, who was killed by a criminal gang in 2013.

The report indicates that in 10 departments with at least one violent death of a media worker, the rate of impunity is 100 percent.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a special report in 2014 detailing the high level of violence against media workers in Honduras and the subsequent high rates of impunity.

It also pointed to uncertainty in determining who is responsible and the motives, including whether it was related to the journalists’ work. The uncertainty “has created a climate of fear among journalists,” it wrote.



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