Honduras: Journalism in the Shadow of Impunity
PEN International, in association with PEN Canada and the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, released on January 23 Honduras: Journalism in the Shadow of Impunity, a new report on the rise of attacks against journalists in Honduras since the coup d’état that ousted President José Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. Since the coup, at least 32 Honduran journalists have been killed and many more continue to work in a climate of fear and self-censorship.
While these crimes have received speckled media coverage in the past, this comprehensive 90-page report for the first time documents the intertwining roles of official corruption, bureaucratic ineptitude, collusion with organized crime, failure of transitional justice mechanisms, and lack of solidarity among journalists themselves that allow the violence to continue with near complete impunity.
- There were 344 separate direct acts of aggression committed against media workers in 2012, with at least 197 of them committed by state agents.
- Social communicators, bloggers, and journalists employing digital media are far more likely to be targeted than “traditional” journalists; broadcast journalists whose faces and voices are familiar encounter the most intense violence.
- Of the 22 murders of media workers documented by the Public Prosecutors Office, only eight have been prosecuted; convictions have been obtained in only two cases.
- Honduras has excluded murders of journalists from the jurisdiction of the office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, treating them simply as acts of street violence.
- Corruption and impunity have undermined trust of state agencies. Victims are now more likely to report crime to local NGOs than to the police.
- Measures to combat impunity and violence are diffuse and badly under-resourced. No one is ultimately accountable for the high level of violence against journalists and writers.
- To achieve long-term and systemic change, the Honduran government must empower the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights to investigate and prosecute the murders of journalists and provide transparency on all criminal investigations.