The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters for Latin America and Caribbean (AMARC-ALC) and Reporters Without Borders appeal again for an end to the hostility toward community and opposition media (or what are regarded as opposition media) amid the continuing social unrest in Honduras.
They issued their joint appeal as a Reporters Without Borders representative travelled on 31 March to the southern island of Zacate Grande, where the community radio station La Voz de Zacate Grande has been the target of constant harassment ever since it began broadcasting on 14 April 2010. The president of the board that oversees the station, was shot in the leg on last 13 March by two critics of its editorial policies. The radio station defends the cause of the Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande Peninsula (ADEPZA), whose representatives are accused by agro-industrial tycoon Miguel Facussé Barjum of occupying “his“ land.
Police and soldiers have repeatedly used violence against peaceful demonstrations by teachers and others during the second half of March. Their repressive behaviour has been all the more outrageous for being accompanied by a clear desire to prevent any coverage of these events by media that criticised the June 2009 coup d’état.
“The trauma caused by the coup continues to affect Honduran society and the current demonstrations are an expression of this,” AMARC-ALC and Reporters Without Borders said. “The repression has been stepped up again in the wake of the testimony about the situation that representatives of grass-roots movements, civil society organizations and NGOs gave to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, now in session.
“It is clear from what has been happening that the government has not kept the promises it made to the United Nations Human Rights Council. As regards the areas covered by our mandates, we believe that there will be no peace in Honduras as long as:
- The impunity continues, not only for the murders of journalists and human rights activists, but also for the attacks and acts of sabotage against media, whose perpetrators are known.
- The authorities continue to enforce obsolete radiobroadcast and telecommunications laws that allow no place for community media, although legislation for these media is required by Inter-American legal standards.
- The authorities continue to block access to public information about responsibility for the most serious abuses following the coup d’état. Until then, the attitudes of the coup will continue to prevail.”
Two serious violations have occurred in the course of the demonstrations of the past few days, in addition to those already reported.
The first was on 28 March, when the activist Miriam Miranda was beaten by police and soldiers and was then arrested and held for 12 hours. Miranda is the president of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (Ofraneh), which created Radio Faluma Bimetu (Coco Dulce) a community radio station that has been censored and attacked. Although she has been released, Miranda continues to be absurdly charged with sedition.
The second incident was yesterday’s arrest of Radio Progreso journalist Pedro López for four hours. López was arrested with two other people while covering a protest against privatization of the education sector, fuel price rises and poor work conditions in garment assembly plants (known as maquilas).
Founded by Jesuits six decades ago, Radio Progreso was overrun and occupied by soldiers just hours after the 2009 coup d’état.
The special rapporteurs on freedom of expression of the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have voiced concern about the mounting violence against community media in Honduras and have called on the government to comply with its international obligations regarding human rights and freedom of expression, including the duty to protect the practice of journalism by community media, which are currently fulfilling a key role in social debate and reporting news that other media deliberately omit.