Is Honduras' Lobo Regime Killing Off Journalists Critical of the Coup?
Fifty-four-year-old Fausto Elio Hernández Arteaga of Radio Alegre is the most recent journalist to be murdered in Honduras, and the nineteenth reporter killed since Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo seized power after the 2009 military coup. Hacked to death with 18 machete wounds, his body was discovered last Sunday.
Journalists who have covered the region say the killings target those who were critical of the coup. Felix Molina, host of the nightly news program Radio Globo in Honduras -- which the military shut down twice since the coup -- says he regularly receives death threats in text messages. A former Radio Globo employee, Luz Marina Paz Villalobos, was gunned down and killed in December.
From Ottawa, where Molina is visiting to denounce the Canadian government's signing of a free-trade agreement with the Lobo regime, Molina explained the most recent murder:
"Another journalist killed in a post-coup situation where none of the previous 18 assassinations have been investigated, much less solved. The responsibility for that impunity lies with the regime that took power by force. It's also significant that this newest killing took place in the Aguán Valley, the region of the country that has seen the highest degree of political violence since the coup. In the two years since Lobo took power, more than 50 landless farmers have been killed in this one valley, simply for demanding their right to land."
A video-journalist who recently completed a documentary called Resistencia about the land conflict in the Aguán Valley where Hernández was killed, Jesse Freeston said:
"We still don't have the details on the most recent death, but the last journalist that was killed in the Aguán, Nahúm Palacios, was shot dead just one week after doing a TV report sympathetic to the landless farmer movement in the valley. Most international coverage of the journalist deaths neglects to mention that at least 17 of the 19 murdered journalists had been critical of the coup regime, and zero of the 19 worked for any of Honduras' major media conglomerates that backed the coup (conglomerates that are, by far, the largest employers of journalists). In other words, what we're seeing is a cleansing of journalists critical of what many Hondurans call the 'ongoing coup.'"
The rash of killings has prompted Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, to declare Honduras "per capita, the deadliest place in the world to do journalism."
This week, ninety-four Congressmembers signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to propose cutting off aid to Honduras until the government properly addresses and investigates the deaths. An NGO working for press freedom, Reporters Without Borders is calling for an international investigation.