The situation in Honduras is bad for journalists — 31 killed since 2003. In some of the cases the murders are directly related to media work — five, according to the Committee to Project Journalists. The rest of the cases are unknown because the Honduran legal system is so weak that basic investigations are difficult if not down right impossible.
The killings of the journalists also has to be put in the context of the fact that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world — 86 per 100,000 people. In some cases, the killing of a reporter could be something as simple as “wrong place; wrong time.” Or the reporter could have been singled out for reasons other than that reporter’s work.
Whatever the reasons, the fact that journalists are being killed is of concern in the larger community. We expect journalists to be upset when a large number of our own are killed — for whatever reason. But we are also seeing the rest of the civic society groups express concern.
Non journalists are worried because the killings and threats against media workers could lead to less independent reporting or no reporting about crime and corruption at all. The NGOs, the government leaders and the journalists all make the same point: Without free and independent media, democracy is threatened.
This past week the issue of journalism safety was the focus of series of meeting organized by Inter American Press Association and Media Association Communication.
The sessions — “Security, protection and solidarity for the freedom of expression” — led to commitments from the Honduran government to protect journalists and to fully prosecute killers of journalists.
Among the commitments from the government:
- The creation of a special prosecutor for crimes against journalists because of their professional work.
- The deputy national prosecutor said he supported reforming the Criminal Code to increased the penalty for killing a journalist from 20 to 30 years.
The IAPA session also called for the creation of a special court to hear charges brought by human rights violations and implementation of concrete actions to protect, investigate and prosecute any crime against freedom of expression.
The conference final document also called on media companies and individual journalists to take steps to enhance journalists’ security:
- Exercise safe and responsible journalism.
- Strengthen measures of self-protection, including workshops and ethics.
- Encourage journalists to assume individual responsibility for their training in journalistic ethics and understanding their exposure to dangerous assignments.
- Urge journalists to report any threats they receive to human rights organizations and the authorities.
The conference was held in Tegucigalpa August 9 and 10. Besides journalists and representatives of media organizations; academics, civil society members, government prosecutors, businessmen and members of the Army attended.