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Honduras has become one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for journalists since the June 2009 coup. Attacks on opposition and community media have gone completely unpunished. The legislation on broadcasting and communications leaves no room for community radio, while access to state-held information about those responsible for the most serious abuses since the coup remains blocked.
Honduras was suspended from the Organization of American States after President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster in a June 2009 coup that was backed by the mainstream media, all owned by influential politicians or businessmen. All the OAS members except Ecuador voted to readmit the country in June 2011, four days after Zelaya was allowed to return. However, its readmission was widely criticized by journalists, civil society organisations and human rights groups because it did nothing to resolve the situation created by the coup.
Opposition and community media that dare to report human rights violations or rural land conflicts are exposed to serious reprisals, with the direct complicity of the police and armed forces. This has been seen in the persecution of opposition media such Radio Uno, Radio Globo and Canal 36, and community radio stations such as Radio Coco Dulce (also known as Radio Faluma Bimetu) and La Voz de Zacate Grande. The land on which La Voz de Zacate Grande is located is claimed by businessman landowner and palm oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum, who was added to the Reporters Without Borders list of Predators of Press Freedom on 3 May 2011.
Thirteen journalists and a TV station owner have been slain since the start of 2010 without any of these murders so far being solved.
Judicial harassment is also used to pressure journalists. Pedro Canales, one of the journalists at La Voz de Zacate Grande, is being prosecuted on a charge of illegally using a radio frequency because community radio stations do not have legal status in Honduras. Prosecutions are also being brought against two other journalists employed by this station, Elia Xiomara Hernández and Elba Yolibeth Rubio, and its director, Franklin Meléndez, who was wounded in a targeted shooting in March 2011. The allocation of all low-power broadcast frequencies was suspended by the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL) at the start of 2011.
Updated in August 2011