Thirty-two murdered: the massacre of Honduran journalists

GBBy the end of December 2013, 32 murdered journalists had been recorded in Honduras since the coup d’état in 2009. That’s 32 journalists in four years, eight journalists a year. This figure is horrifying, all the more so when one considers that fewer than 1 per cent of crimes are formally investigated in Honduras.

These crimes remain unpunished. Many journalists go into exile in order to stay alive, or work in an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship.

This is happening in a country which is officially at peace, where elections were recently held and where a new president will come into power at the end of the month. But the reality is that in Honduras an open war is being waged against journalists who dare to denounce corruption and organised crime. Freedom of the press or expression does not exist, nor respect for life. For this reason, PEN International and the PEN Nicaragua will launch a campaign on 23 January supported by the report Honduras: Journalism in the Shadow of Impunity.

The 90-page report undertaken by PEN Canada, the International Human Rights Programme at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, and PEN International demonstrates that the violence against journalists in Honduras ranges from verbal threats and intimidation to physical attacks and murder. The investigation considers that possible reasons for the violence against Honduran journalists lie in their political reporting of organised crime and drug trafficking, and the state’s complicity with these.

Bertha Oliva, Co-ordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH) says, ‘when we allow impunity for human rights violations, we see the crimes of the past translated into crimes of the future.’ Never a truer word spoken. One of the most surprising findings from the report is that impunity and the number of crimes have increased in the absence of solidarity amongst journalists.

The same lack of solidarity has prevented the furtherance of protection mechanisms. There is no united front amongst Honduran journalists to press for an end to the constant violation of human rights and the murders. Journalists are easy prey for gangs, international drug traffickers and corrupt state agents.

On the other hand, the Honduran state is not working to improve the situation, according to the report. Weakness and corruption plague the offices charged with investigating and prosecuting those responsible. Hence, of the 22 journalist murders reported to the Honduran authorities, only eight have been tried by the Public Prosecutor and only two have resulted in convictions. Two out of 22.

As PEN Nicaragua, as writers, as Central Americans, as supporters of freedom of expression in solidarity with the suffering of our brother Honduran journalists, we support the campaign initiated by PEN International to call the attention of the world to this massacre, this hate crime.

We have the right to live and express ourselves freely, as well as the obligation to remember that the right unclaimed is a right lost. The thirty-two Honduran journalists murdered in four years were unable to claim their right to life and free expression. PEN claims it for them.

Gioconda Belli, President of PEN Nicaragua

Managua, January 2014

(Translated by Emma Wadsworth-Jones)