Wave of Killings and Threats Undermine Free Expression
March 19, 2010
It’s impossible to know the exact motive of these attacks without an adequate investigation. But the murders and threats are generating a climate of fear that is likely to have a chilling effect on the Honduran media.
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC) – Honduras should conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into a recent wave of killings and threats against journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. Three journalists have been killed in March, and five others have been threatened.

“It’s impossible to know the exact motive of these attacks without an adequate investigation,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “But the murders and threats are generating a climate of fear that is likely to have a chilling effect on the Honduran media.”

The following three journalists were killed in Honduras this month:

• On March 14, while Nahún Palacios was driving his car, two cars came up behind him and shot at him repeatedly. He died instantly at the scene. Palacios, who directed TV Channel 5 of Aguán, covered several politically sensitive issues, including anti-coup demonstrations, drug trafficking, and agrarian conflicts. Two days after the coup of June 28, 2009, which Palacios had criticized, military officials searched his home, seized his work equipment, threatened him, and pointed their guns at his children. On July 24, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights granted Palacios “precautionary measures,” ordering Honduras to protect him. Palacios continued to receive threats until he was killed.
• On March 11, David Meza, a reporter for the local radio El Patio and correspondent of the national Radio America, was driving his car when a truck opened fire on him, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and crash into a building. According to the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Meza had been reportedly threatened after he published several reports on drug trafficking.
• On March 1, unknown individuals killed Joseph Hernández Ochoa while he was driving his car with Carol Cabrera, another journalist who was injured in the attack. Ochoa hosted an entertainment show on TV Channel 51, and Cabrera hosts a radio show in Cadena Voces. Cabrera, who openly supported the coup and hosted a TV show on a public station during the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti, has received multiple death threats since the coup. She usually has a police escort, who was not with her when the attack occurred.

In addition, Human Rights Watch has received credible allegations that five other journalists throughout the country have been threatened. Some have been followed, and some have received death threats, primarily through text messages, over the past two weeks. The latest threat reported to Human Rights Watch was a text message received by a journalist on March 18, stating, “Stop talking because we will close your mouth.”

Human Rights Watch has been unable to speak directly to the victims because they are afraid of making their cases public.

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