Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Honduran Junta Murdering Journalists
By Stephen Lendman
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 8, 2010
This article follows an earlier one titled Death Squad Terror in
Honduras, accessed through the following link:
Orchestrated by Washington, it discussed the June 28, 2009 coup,
Honduran soldiers arresting President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint, exiling
him to Costa Rica, obstructing his return, committing widespread killings
and human rights abuses, conducting a sham November 2009 election under
martial law, installing Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo Sosa president on January 27,
2010, the Obama administration's man in Honduras, succeeding interim
leader, Roberto Micheletti, using death squad terror to solidify coup
d'etat rule, what most Hondurans oppose and want ended.
1981, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is "an independent,
nonprofit organization... promot(ing) press freedom worldwide by defending
the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal."
On July 27, it published a special report titled, "Journalist murders
spotlight Honduran government failures," saying seven were killed from
March - mid-June, six during a seven week period, the "government
fostering a climate of lawlessness (letting) criminals....kill journalists
with impunity....assassinations carried out by hit men."
them routine street crimes, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said "there is
nothing to indicate that it is because of their journalistic work,"
dismissing them out of hand with no investigations or prosecutions,
suggesting government forces behind them silencing critics. Post-coup,
state terror is official policy, especially against independent
journalists, pro-democracy groups, human rights workers, campesinos and
others challenging state/oligarch/drug lord power.
For their part,
journalists fear the murders were "conducted with the tacit approval, or
even outright complicity (on orders) of police, armed forces, or other
authorities," ongoing death squad terror since mid-2009.
the impression that the government wants you in terror so you don't know
what to report. Is this story about drugs too dangerous? What about this
one about political corruption? At the end, you don't report anything that
will make powerful people uncomfortable," Geovany Dominguez explained,
Tiempo newspaper's senior editor in Tegucigalpa, Honduras' capital.
CPJ found evidence that at least several killings were work related, most
likely all of them, given the politically charged lawless and violent
environment. An alarming pattern of impunity also was clear, evidenced by
official indifference to investigate and arrest perpetrators, ones they
and/or powerful interests likely enlisted. In one case, protection for a
threatened journalist was denied, a TV anchor later shot and killed.
Victor Jimenez, Radio Excelsior manager in Juticalpa, expressed alarm
"Narcotics gangs now are stronger than the government. The
powerful families that have been running parts of this country for
generations, some of the politicians who have personal power, local
military leaders - all of them work outside the government's power. The
government is on the margin, it has the least power," working
collaboratively with gangs and oligarchs. That's why "the police and the
courts don't mean a thing. The people won't talk to them; the people are
afraid of the real power."
In March 2010, even the US State
"Following the June coup, there were reports that
the de facto regime or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful
killings....A small number of powerful business magnates with intersecting
commercial, political, and family ties own most of the country's news
Yet Washington opposed Zelaya, backed his exile, and
supported both coup regimes, under Micheletti and Lobo, despite popular
opposition by the People's National Resistance Front, Unified Movement of
the Peasants of the Aguan, and other groups, some saying their leaders
have been abducted or murdered by death squads or hired killers, the same
ones targeting journalists.
An anonymous diplomat said a small
elite class benefits from lawlessness, their interests advanced without
scrutiny. Yet concern about its international image, not justice, got the
government to request FBI help, more symbolic than real, one agent only
assigned in June, working on his own with no forensic evidence, lost or
Reports of Journalists Killed, Impunity the Common
Nahum Palacios Arteaga, Channel 5, Tocoa
station's main anchor, "he was the face of journalism," the region's best,
and "the voice of his people, the country folk and the destitute." His
father said he was killed for being honest, not corrupt. People loved him,
the local boy who made good. According to reporter Mario Ramirez, he did
something about area abuses, more than anyone else. "He saved people's
homes. He got their children cured. He protected whole villages." He
supported campesinos wanting land reform, demanding vast land tracts
He opposed the coup openly on-air, got death
threats, needed but was denied protection, many supporters blaming
authorities for the murder. On March 14, gunmen killed him when he got
home. At the time, no autopsy was performed. Months later, authorities
said they had no leads, little wonder given its indifference to justice
and perhaps involvement in the crime.
David Meza Montesinos -
Radio El Patio, Radio America, Channels 7, 36 and 45
decades, he was La Ceiba's most prominent journalist, "the one people felt
closest to" for helping those mistreated by government and business. As a
result, he was known as "the poor person's representative."
Tribuna correspondent Julio Cesar Rodriguez called La Ceiba "a city of
abuses. The government abuses the poor. The rich, the businesses, abuse
the poor. Even the middle class take what they want from the people at the
bottom." Meza tried to stop them for years.
As a result, on March
11, gunmen murdered him in cold blood. Some suspect Los Grillos, a
drug-connected gang. Others say the police because Meza criticized their
abuses and corruption on air. Asked about the killing, La Ceiba Police
Chief, Jose Ayala, refused comment. According to area journalists, the
police and Grillos gang "are very close," raising suspicions they hired
members "to do the job."
Joseph Hernandez Ochoa, Channel 51
On March 1, days before his planned move to government-run Channel 8, he
was shot to death, journalist Karol Cabrera with him seriously wounded,
later saying she was targeted because of her investigative journalism and
on-air government critiques. "It is the truth that makes them angry," she
She's been under police protection for months, her
pregnant daughter murdered last December, on the same road where she was
shot. Yet, "In the operation to kill me, there were two senior police
officials on motorcycles directing everything. There are witness
statements to prove that, but the police have hidden them." A police
spokesman called the accusation "absurd."
On June 10, media
reports said she and her children moved to Canada for their safety.
Luis Arturo Mondragon, Channel 19 Owner
On June 14, gunmen killed
him outside the studio, local reporters attributing it to his criticism of
corruption, drug gangs and "the illegal lumbering business that is
stripping the forests nearby." Tiempo correspondent Osmin Garcia called
them "dangerous topics....He talked about them on the newscast without
giving names, but that wasn't enough protection."
Carlos said his father had been threatened for years, but recently it got
serious. "But my father had the attitude that he was going to go ahead
anyway. He said he had to continue - that 'If they are going to kill me
they won't threaten first, they'll just do it."
The police refused
Jorge Alberto Orellana, Channel 10
On July 2,
Chief Prosecuting Attorney Rafael Fletes charged Joseph Cockborn Delgado
with the April 20 killing, claiming solid evidence, including witnesses,
information he won't disclose about what he's sure was a paid
Orellana was a well-known, respected San Pedro Sula
broadcaster, shot in the head and killed after his nightly program,
a motive yet to be determined, though likely an assassination because his
left leanings put him at odds with authorities and business elites. Yet on
air he was moderate and balanced, not strident like others. However,
post-coup, "balance has been out of fashion and people see conspiracies at
work on the other side of wherever they stand politically."
Mayardo Mairena and Manuel Juarez, Channel 4, Radio Excelsior, and Radio
A veteran newsman in a remote part of the country, Mairena
bought airtime on a local TV and radio station to air his own shows, the
way most Honduran broadcasting is done, even newscasts. Juarez was his
assistant and on-air "sidekick."
Although they tried avoiding
controversy, "it can't be discounted that....they slipped up," angering
powerful interests that killed them. At election time, they talked
politics, radio station manager, Victor Jimenez, saying "We practice
journalism of the stomach, which means journalism that gives us food (from
paid advertising). It makes for difficult questions of ethics."
Yet local journalists didn't think political advocacy was the motive,
believing it's "more basic than that," discussing on air "the feud between
two powerful large families in Juticalpa, one where perhaps dozens have
been killed this year and last..."
The killings have a common
thread - impunity, ensuring gunmen feel safe knowing authorities won't
investigate or prosecute.
"The Honduran government has failed to
exert necessary oversight over the national police, who are responsible
for investigating these crimes," the parliament and executive allocating
no resources for it, and "Diplomats and journalists say police have also
been infiltrated by criminal gangs."
As a result, crime elements
operate freely in a government-created "climate of lawlessness,"
protecting oligarchs, drug lords, and other privileged Hondurans against
the people, especially anyone publicly critical.
the Organization of American States (OAS) expelled Honduras. A year later,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded re-admittance at its scheduled
July 30 meeting, saying last year's "free and fair elections....should
qualify the country."
Institutionalized persecution and violence
against human rights workers, campesinos, pro-democracy groups,
independent journalists, and other outspoken critics proves otherwise.
A final note. OAS cancelled its meeting because of
disagreements between the ousted Zelaya government and coup regime. As a
result, support to reinstate Honduras weakened. A two-thirds majority is
needed, yet the organization traditionally operates by consensus.
Nonetheless, Honduran media reports claim a ruling, when made, will be by
majority. If so, it will violate longstanding policy under Obama
administration pressure. However, Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza
assured Manuel Zelaya representatives that a decision would be by
consensus. The situation bears watching.
Stephen Lendman lives in
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