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Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Honduran journalists face aggression and harassment after controversial presidential elections



*This post has been updated to include new of three international journalists who were deported in the aftermath of the elections.

Several communication professionals in Honduras have denounced the theft of their belongings, as well as persecution and threats by the country’s armed forces, in the days following the controversial presidential elections held in the Central American country, according to the Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre).

In this context, the Honduran Roundtable for Human Rights also denounced in a press release that the Honduran armed forces are carrying out "excessive use of force," which it described as "state terrorism," according to news site Aristegui Noticias.

The organization, made up of several human rights defenders institutes, also said in its release that that it had recorded attacks against journalists and communication workers by the security forces, preventing them from covering the protests that are taking place throughout the entire country because of projected election results.

Additionally, authorities detained and refused entry to international freelance journalists Jihan Hafiz (Brazil), Reed Lindsay (U.S.) and Ed Agustin (UK) at the Toncontin Airport, according to Tweets from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the journalists. They were deported on the morning of Dec. 5, according to CPJ.

Many have questioned the legitimacy and projected outcome of the Nov. 26 elections in Honduras. As of Dec. 4, current President Juan Orlando Hernández held a narrow lead over opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla. Critics have claimed fraud and manipulation in the voting results to favor Hernández and have demanded a recount. Electoral observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) said in a press release, “the tight margin of the results, and the irregularities, errors and systemic problems that have surrounding this election do not allow the Mission [of observers] to hold certainty about the results.”

Regarding attacks on journalists, C-Libre reported that journalists Jorge Alberto Estrada Leisy and Johana Flores Gáleas of Canal UNE Tv recently reported the presence of snipers in the building located in front of the channel, and of a subject armed with high-powered binoculars in the back of the media’s facilities.

Flores Gáleas also told C-Libre that in another recent incident, while both journalists were doing their work, two individuals followed them and held them at gunpoint to steal only their cell phones.

"They did not care about taking the equipment or the cameras that are more expensive than our phones, but they went with the mission of taking away the phones and the information we had there," Flores Gáleas told C-Libre.

C-Libre also reported that after the elections, press correspondents have been victims of verbal attacks by sympathizers of the ruling party and security agents.

A cameraman from the international news network Telesur, Antonio Torres, reported being intimidated by officials of the Honduran National Institute of Migration and agents of the armed forces, C-Libre reported.

"I was with a colleague from Telesur, because she needed an extension for the amount of time she could stay in Honduras, right then some guys came to attack and harass us, asking why we took pictures and they wanted to take our work equipment," Torres said.

The organizations that make up the Honduran Roundtable for Human Rights also denounced in their press release that members of the Military Police of the Public Order,  Policía Tigres, the Army and the National Civil Police are attacking the demonstrators and the press during the protests against the electoral results, without fulfilling any protocol of action of the security forces.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed their profound concern over the situation of violence in Honduras in the post-electoral context, and urged the government to respect international treaties and guarantees of human rights in Honduras.

Starting on the night of Dec. 1, the State of Honduras imposed a curfew for ten days, which prevents the free movement of people from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.

With regard to the curfew, the IACHR and the OHCHR spoke out in asking that the decree not affect the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, in order not to weaken the democratic foundations of that country.

On Dec. 5, about 200 members of the Cobras, Honduran riot police, announced at police headquarters that they would not enforce the night-time curfew or confront protesters since it was “taking sides” in the contest between the presidential candidates, the BBC reported.

Repression from security forces during the wave of post-electoral protests has caused the death of at least 6 people and has left more than 15 injured, Telesur reported.



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