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Honduras May 18, 2010
H.E Porfirio Lobo Sosa
President, Republic of Honduras
c/o Embassy of the Republic of Honduras
3007 Tilden Street
Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: (202) 966.9751
The Overseas Press Club of America, which has been defending the rights of journalists around the world for seven decades, wrote to you only last month about the catastrophic situation of journalists in your country. We are impelled to write again because, if anything, their situation – and the situation of human rights in general in Honduras – is growing worse.
Soon after you were inaugurated, in a speech to students at the Central American Technological University, you declared your belief in freedom as a fundamental human right and you added your signature to the Declaration of Chapultepec. Since then, seven Honduran journalists have been assassinated, making Honduras as dangerous as Mexico for a journalist to go about the legitimate business of reporting and commenting on the news. As far as we have heard, no arrests have been made.
The motives for the murders do not seem to be clear. At least two of the murdered journalists had opposed the coup that led to your election. José Bayardo Mairena Ramírez, who was shot to death along with his colleague, Manuel Juárez, on March 26, was a veteran TV and radio journalist who had opposed the coup d’état last year. So had Jorge Alberto Orellana, host of a TV program, murdered on March 1. On the other hand, Karol Cabrera, who was wounded in an attack that killed her colleague, Joseph Hernández Ochoa, at the beginning of March, had supported the coup on the Channel 8 show that she hosted.
Unless these murders are thoroughly investigated, the public will not know the motives for the killings, whether they were instigated by one political party or another, or whether they were meant to stop investigations of official corruption or of the activities of drug gangs. The murders all had one thing in common – the victims were attacked while in their cars by gunmen in another car.
The seven murders do not measure the full extent of the damage inflicted on the press by fear, threats and beatings. According to Reporters Without Borders, three journalists have fled Honduras to escape the violence. One of them, José Alemán, a broadcaster and correspondent for Tiempo, barely escaped with his life. He had received threats but continued with his work anyhow. When he was on his way home by bicycle, a car attempted to cut him off, but he escaped by riding down a narrow alley. He went straight to a police station, where he learned that two gunmen had just broken into his home and shot it up. Alemán left the country that evening.
The Inter-American Press Association has proposed several steps that you might take to stop this killing and persecution of journalists. You could establish some sort of international oversight, such as Guatemala has, with the support of the United Nations. You could appoint special prosecutors. You could create a special jurisdiction for crimes committed against freedom of expression.
Most of all, with your words and actions, you could make it clear that attacks on the press will not be tolerated in Honduras and that a public well-informed by a free press is the best assurance of stability and democracy.
Co-Chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Eduardo Reina García
Ambassador of Honduras to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Honduras
3007 Tilden Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: (202) 966.9751
Ambassador Jorge Arturo Reina
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Honduras to the United Nations
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 417
New York, N.Y. 10017
Fax: (212) 223.0498
H.E. Hugo Llorena
U.S. Ambassador to Honduras
Embassy of the United States of America
Avenida La Paz
Fax: (011.504) 236.9037
Fax: (011.504) 232.2923
Comité por la Libre Expresión
Primera calle (contiguo a Centro Cultural de España)
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