Media Releases

New report co-authored by International Human Rights Program says murderous violence against journalists in Honduras is on the rise

January 23, 2014

TORONTO, ON – Co-authored with PEN Cana­da and PEN Inter­na­tion­al, report calls for Hon­duran gov­ern­ment to end lethal vio­lence against jour­nal­ists and its cli­mate of impuni­ty, and for donor states such as the UK and Cana­da to work with Hon­duras on these issues

Jour­nal­ists who cov­er orga­nized crime, gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion and oth­er sen­si­tive issues are increas­ing­ly fac­ing threats and lethal attacks in Hon­duras, with almost com­plete impuni­ty for per­pe­tra­tors, said PEN Inter­na­tion­al in a new report released today in part­ner­ship with PEN Cana­da and the Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram (IHRP) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Fac­ul­ty of Law.

The report – Hon­duras: Jour­nal­ism in the Shad­ow of Impuni­ty doc­u­ments the rise in vio­lence against jour­nal­ists fol­low­ing the coup d’état that oust­ed Pres­i­dent José Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, and the fail­ure of both state and inter­na­tion­al mech­a­nisms to inves­ti­gate and pun­ish those respon­si­ble. Since June 2009 at least 32 Hon­duran jour­nal­ists – most work­ing for the broad­cast media – have been killed and many more con­tin­ue to work in a cli­mate of fear and self-cen­sor­ship.

Hon­duras is in extreme cri­sis. This ground-break­ing, inci­sive PEN report details the dead­ly cou­pling of cor­rup­tion and impuni­ty that is destroy­ing Hon­duras. It is urgent that Hon­duras and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty work togeth­er to strength­en the rule of law in the coun­try,’ said Mar­i­an Bots­ford Fras­er, Chair of PEN’s Writ­ers in Prison Com­mit­tee.

Increas­ing lev­els of vio­lence and wide­spread impuni­ty has made Hon­duras one of the most dan­ger­ous coun­tries in the world. While transna­tion­al drug car­tels are, in part, respon­si­ble for the ris­ing homi­cide rate, much of the cur­rent cri­sis of vio­lence is pro­duced by state author­i­ties, accord­ing to the new report.

Cor­rup­tion with­in the police force is alarm­ing­ly high, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly under­min­ing trust among state agen­cies, dam­ag­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in key insti­tu­tions and ulti­mate­ly ham­per­ing the insti­tu­tion­al capac­i­ty of the jus­tice sys­tem.  There are too many agen­cies that notion­al­ly address the prob­lem of vio­lence and impuni­ty, result­ing in a sit­u­a­tion where no one is account­able for ensur­ing jus­tice for vic­tims and their fam­i­lies.

The recent wave of mur­der­ous vio­lence against jour­nal­ists has been met with a famil­iar mix­ture of inad­e­quate resources, bureau­crat­ic inep­ti­tude, blame-shift­ing and denial.  Jour­nal­ists’ mur­ders are rarely ade­quate­ly inves­ti­gat­ed or solved: of the 38 jour­nal­ists mur­dered since 2003, only two con­vic­tions have been obtained.

‘The cur­rent cli­mate of per­va­sive impuni­ty in Hon­duras is the result of fail­ures in account­abil­i­ty for seri­ous human rights abus­es span­ning decades. Vio­lence thrives where impuni­ty pre­vails. Hon­duras will con­tin­ue to be locked in a cycle of impuni­ty and vio­lence until there is mean­ing­ful account­abil­i­ty,’ said Car­men Che­ung, Act­ing Direc­tor of the Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Fac­ul­ty of Law.

PEN Inter­na­tion­al, PEN Cana­da and the Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Fac­ul­ty of Law are togeth­er call­ing on the Hon­duran gov­ern­ment to ful­ly inves­ti­gate all cas­es of mur­dered jour­nal­ists; and to empow­er exist­ing state insti­tu­tions and mech­a­nisms and estab­lish new ones where need­ed, to ensure that all mem­bers of the media are afford­ed the full pro­tec­tion of the law.

The three organ­i­sa­tions’ key rec­om­men­da­tions to the Hon­duran gov­ern­ment:

The Hon­duran gov­ern­ment must:

  • Ensure that appro­pri­ate inves­tiga­tive bod­ies and pro­to­cols for crimes com­mit­ted against jour­nal­ists are estab­lished
  • Empow­er the Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tor for Human Rights to inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute the mur­ders of jour­nal­ists and human rights defend­ers and ensure that its office receives suf­fi­cient finan­cial, human and tech­ni­cal resources to car­ry out its work.
  • Ensure that any new legal mech­a­nisms intend­ed to improve jour­nal­ist secu­ri­ty, such as the pro­posed Bill for the Pro­tec­tion of Human Rights Defend­ers, Jour­nal­ists,  Social Com­mu­ni­ca­tors and Jus­tice Oper­a­tors, come into effect with ade­quate finan­cial, human and tech­ni­cal resources, as well as polit­i­cal will, in order to guar­an­tee effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion.

The report also makes a series of rec­om­men­da­tions to the Hon­duran media and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for the pro­tec­tion of jour­nal­ists in the coun­try, includ­ing a call for donor states such as the UK and Cana­da to work with Hon­duras on the issues. Cana­da, hav­ing signed a free-trade agree­ment with Hon­duras in Novem­ber 2013, has impor­tant eco­nom­ic ties to the coun­try, and may have par­tic­u­lar influ­ence.

‘No change will come from the Hon­duran gov­ern­ment act­ing alone,’ said Tasleem Thawar, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of PEN Cana­da, ‘Every coun­try and inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion with inter­ests in Hon­duras — whether eco­nom­ic, secu­ri­ty-relat­ed, social or cul­tur­al – must tie their sup­port to Hon­duras meet­ing its human rights oblig­a­tions.’

Read the full report.

For more infor­ma­tion and to sched­ule inter­views, please con­tact:

(Lon­don) Sahar Halaimzai: | t. +44 (0)20 7405 0338

(Toron­to) Juani­ta Bawa­gan:  | t. +1 (416) 703 8448 x 21

Avail­able for inter­views:

  • Dina Meza, Hon­duran jour­nal­ist and human rights activist
  • Eduar­do Bähr, Hon­duran writer and Direc­tor of the Nation­al Library in Tegu­ci­gal­pa
  • Julio Alvara­do, Hon­duran jour­nal­ist
  • Bren­dan de Caires, PEN Cana­da, Pro­grams & Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
  • Car­men Che­ung, act­ing Direc­tor of the Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Fac­ul­ty of Law: | t. +1(416)946‑9730

PEN Inter­na­tion­al cel­e­brates lit­er­a­ture and pro­motes free­dom of expres­sion. Found­ed in 1921, our glob­al com­mu­ni­ty of writ­ers now com­pris­es 144 Cen­tres span­ning more than 100 coun­tries. Our pro­grammes, cam­paigns, events and pub­li­ca­tions con­nect writ­ers and read­ers for glob­al sol­i­dar­i­ty and coop­er­a­tion. PEN Inter­na­tion­al is a non-polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion and holds con­sul­ta­tive sta­tus at the Unit­ed Nations and UNESCO. 

PEN Cana­da is a non­par­ti­san orga­ni­za­tion of writ­ers that works with oth­ers to defend free­dom of expres­sion as a basic human right at home and abroad. PEN Cana­da pro­motes lit­er­a­ture, fights cen­sor­ship, helps free per­se­cut­ed writ­ers from prison, and assists writ­ers liv­ing in exile in Cana­da.

The Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram (IHRP) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Fac­ul­ty of Law enhances the legal pro­tec­tion of exist­ing and emerg­ing inter­na­tion­al human rights oblig­a­tions through advo­ca­cy, knowl­edge-exchange, and capac­i­ty-build­ing ini­tia­tives that pro­vide expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents and legal exper­tise to civ­il soci­ety.