Violence in Honduras is at epidemic proportions. Literally caught in the crossfire are journalists.
About 18 journalists have been killed in the past 18 months. How many were killed because of their work or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time is up in the air. But that does not take away from the dangers journalists face.
Besides the killings, numerous cases of intimidation and threats against journalists are becoming common place. The threats are reportedly coming from corrupt officials, drug cartels and thugs hired by some business interests.
Honduran journalists have been very brave to keep pushing their investigative reports on national and local corruption.
Earlier this week Pres. Lobo called for a meeting with media leaders. The reports said he wanted to talk about freedom of expression and the national interest.
That phrasing set up red flags all over the place. The biggest fear was that Lobo — who has regularly stood up for press freedom — would ask reporters to pull back on their reporting. (We’ve seen it done in other places.)
The meeting took place Friday, Nov. 25 and basically Lobo said his government was unable to protect journalists but that he would do what he can. Bottom line, he said, journalists and news organizations have to look to their own security.
Lobo said he would issue an executive order prohibiting threats or intimidation by police against reporters. He added that any hint of a threat or intimidation should be reported right away.
“Keep me informed, you all have my phone number. I will ask we have the numbers of all of you, so you help us to report abuses,” he said.
The Lobo government has been under pressure to address the growing violence in Honduras that has earned the country the dubious title of murder capital of the world. At the same time he is dealing with growing corruption among the police and security forces by gangs and narcos. (Yes, these problems are linked.)
The downside of the meeting: Lobo admitted his government could do little to protect journalists and was having a hard time finding and prosecuting the killers of journalists.
The upside: Lobo reiterated his support for free media and underscored the importance free media play in society.