Honduran journalist murdered as all-out assault on media freedom continues
#Honduras: reportero asesinado Igor Padilla trabajaba en una película sobre asesinatos de #periodistas! https://t.co/wIsGHEZjJ2 pic.twitter.com/Nwv4FtrbGK— IFJ (@IFJGlobal) January 25, 2017
The past two months have seen a litany of killings, threats and attacks on the media, as the widespread assault on free expression in Honduras continues. On 17th January, journalist Igor Padilla was assassinated. He was repeatedly shot from a moving car in a street in San Pedro Sula, a city in the north west of Honduras. Police sources said it looked like a planned attack against him. Five days earlier, two journalists from the same media outlet, HCH Television, had been threatened through a video posted on social media. In the video, a hooded person ordered the outlet's director to fire reporter Elsa Oseguera, or otherwise two of her fellow journalists, Ernesto Rojas and Suly Calix, would be murdered.
Several additional threats, cases of intimidation and harassment of journalists were also recorded in the past two months. On 23rd January, Bictor Wuilfredo Ruiz Hernandez - whose brother had been murdered last September - received death threats from unknown sources. The journalist had already made three requests for the Public Ministry to investigate his situation. On 6th February, Edgar Joel Aguilar, a reporter from Channel 12, was threatened through social media. He was told to leave Channel 12 or he would be killed. He tried to file a complaint with the Investigative Police Direction (DPI) but the police refused to take his complaint and investigate his case. In 2012 Aguilar survived a murder attempt in which he was shot 28 times.
On 10th February, a reporter with TV channel Teleprogreso, Cristina Cruz Cantillano, was harassed by a police officer and ruling party activist during a political event. The journalist, who is part of the crew in charge of covering the Mayor's Office, reported that she and her colleagues suffer constant harassment from this institution. Other recently recorded obstacles to journalistic work resulted from a denial of access to public events. Most notably, in late January journalists were not allowed into the legislative building to cover the inauguration of the 2017 session of the National Assembly. The authorities alleged security concerns, but no further explanation was provided for this decision. Finally, on 23rd December a cyberattack shut down the webpage of independent journal Criterio.hn, an alternative media outlet founded in 2015. It took two weeks to get the webpage online again.
#Honduras: Police reportedly intimidates & retains Miriam Miranda & members of OFRANEH, working to defend lands: https://t.co/K8XQQBhKaq pic.twitter.com/nQTlnw7eeG— BusinessHumanRights (@BHRRC) January 17, 2017
On 13th January five members of the indigenous and environmental rights organisation COPINH were arrested following a court ruling that found them guilty of land usurpation. In a public statement, COPINH responded:
"Five comrades were arrested today for the alleged crime of usurpation of a land this is their own property, which they have had for more than fifty years as they have an ancestral right to it. They pay municipal taxes on this land and they are currently in the process of recording their deeds with the National Agrarian Institute. [...]
The community of San Bartolo has given their solidarity and support to the Río Blanco community against DESA's Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. The arrest [of some of its members] is a result of the collusion of the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Judiciary with powerful interests leading a discriminatory and genocidal process of disposession in the indigenous territories. The same Public Prosecutor and Judicial Branch that use judicial terrorism against COPINH proclaim themselves as the exclusive investigators of the murders of COPINH members [...] which favours impunity for these crimes.
[...] It is clear that the objective of these arbitrary detentions is to affect the life, the public image and the rights of the Lenca indigenous people."
During the forcible eviction, one community member was shot in the knee. On 31st January Global Witness released a country report that identifies Honduras as the deadliest country in the world for environmental activists. As documented in the report, over 120 people mobilised against projects affecting the environment were killed in the country between 2010 and 2016. State corruption and the inability to protect activists are identified as the main causes for this situation.
Two weeks after the arrest of the COPINH activists, Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the organisation OFRANEH, was harassed by police officers who tried to arrest her without cause at a traffic stop. She resisted the arbitrary arrest, made a call to alert her fellow activists and was eventually released.
Recently, there have been some developments connected to the murder of Berta Cáceres. On 14th January, the Public Ministry announced that a suspect, Henry Javier Hernández, had been captured in México and was on his way to Honduras. He was the seventh person arrested in connection with the murder. On the other hand, Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican human rights defender who was present at Berta Cáceres' home when she was murdered and was also shot and left for dead during the attack, sued the state of Honduras. Immediately after Cáceres' murder, Castro Soto was blamed for it, arrested and later forbidden to leave the country. He claims that not enough has been done to find the actual culprits, that the investigation has been kept secret and that in the meantime Cáceres' family, friends and colleagues have been left unprotected.
123+ land & environmental activists have been murdered in #Honduras since 2009 https://t.co/ZxfNgvOxro @Global_Witness #LandRightsNow— RRI (@RightsResources) February 4, 2017
On 2nd February, the police intervened to suppress a protest that students of the National University of Honduras were conducting directly outside university premises. The protest was organised in reaction to a court decision that found a university student guilty of murder.
Desalojan a estudiantes que protestaban a favor de Kevin Solórzano: Tegucigalpa… https://t.co/QsK4AKwpQa #Hondunoticias #RT— Noticias de Honduras (@HonduNoticias) February 9, 2017
Civic Space Developments