Journalists under attack in Honduras

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Six journalists have been killed violently in the last eight weeks in Honduras, a spate of violence against reporters that is raising concern among human rights groups as the country struggles to maintain stability after last year’s military-led coup.

Journalists in Honduras and major international rights groups are calling on the government of President Porfirio Lobo to investigate the crimes. Lobo, a conservative, was elected in November and assumed office in January, seven months after the ouster last summer of President Manuel Zelaya. The journalists killed are believed to have been targeted for covering drug trafficking, organized crime, and human rights violations in Honduras, or for their coverage of the 2009 coup, according to Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.


Here are the names, locations and affiliations of the six journalists killed since the beginning of March, as established by the rights groups that have been investigating the killings:

  • March 1: Channel 51 host Joseph Hernandez Ochoa, 26, was killed in Tegucigalpa in a shooting that left another journalist seriously injured. Karol Cabrera, who survived the attack, is an outspoken supporter of the 2009 coup and had been targeted before.
  • March 11: Radio El Patio and Radio America reporter David Meza Montesinos, 51, was shot to death in the Atlantic city of La Ceiba. Meza had been warned to be ‘careful’ about his reporting.
  • March 14: Channel 5 and Radio Tocoa Journalist Nahum Palacios Arteaga, 34, was killed by assailants in the city of Tocoa, near on the Atlantic coast. Palacios had covered drug trafficking, local politics and an agrarian conflict. He had received several death threats.
  • March 27: Reporters Jose Bayardo Mairena, 52, of Radio Excelsior and Manuel Juarez, 54, of Radio Super 10 were killed in a roadside shooting in the province of Olancho. Mairena was a veteran reporter who covered organized crime.
  • April 20: Television news anchor Georgino Orellana, 48, was shot in the head while leaving the TV-Honduras studios in the northern city of San Pedro Sula. Orellana had left his previous television news job because of discomfort with his station’s position in favor of the interim government that took power after the Zelaya coup.

Several other attacks or threats have been recorded against journalists in Honduras in recent weeks. The Times notes that both the ‘extreme right’ and the ‘extreme left’ in Honduras ‘would have reasons for sowing fear’ among media workers. ‘I think what we are seeing with these murders is that there are still dark forces at work,’ said Leo Valladares, a law professor in Tegucigalpa.

Some journalists in La Ceiba are reportedly wearing bulletproof vests to work.

No progress has been made in solving the journalist slayings. A newly formed group, Journalists for Life, rallied in the capital over the weekend, calling for justice in the slayings of the reporters and stronger protections for the press, as part of World Press Freedom Day.

Meanwhile, Lobo swore in an international truth commission charged with formally investigating the roots of the ouster of his former rival, Zelaya.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City