Free Expression Information Center – Honduras – Press Archive
DAVID CASTILLO DECLARED GUILTY AS CO-ACTOR IN MURDER OF ACTIVIST BERTA CÁCERAS
On July 5, David Castillo was declared guilty by the Chamber I of the Sentencing Court with National Jurisdiction as a co-actor in the murder of activist Berta Cáceres in 2016. The decision was unanimous . The trial took place between April 6 and June 28. The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) stated publicly that they still want to bring all perpetrators of the crime to justice, including Daniel Atala Midence, Jose Eduardo Atala, Pedro Atala, Jacobo Atala, and all other people and institutions involved. You can watch the sentencing here.
OVER 320 STATE INSTITUTIONS HAVE NOT COMPLIED WITH THE LAW OF TRANSPARENCY AND ACCESS TO PUBLIC INFORMATION
Julio Vladimir Mendoza, Commissioner of the Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP), recently stated that at least 320 obligated institutions did not comply with their responsibility to provide public information under the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information. The law, established in 2006, establishes that all institutions that handle State funds must publish their accounts to the public so as to verify that policy goals with that funding are being met. While the 2021 semi-annual report from the IAIP has not yet been issued, Mendoza has noted that 320 institutions have not been on record to document their funding.
OHCHR and IACHR CALL FOR IMPARTIAL ACCESS TO TRIAL OF DAVID CASTILLO (07/01/21)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a public letter called on Honduran authorities to grant access to the trial of David Castillo for the murder of activist Berta Cáceres. Family members and members of COPINH and accompanying organizations have been restricted access to the trial since it began. You can read the full statement here.
PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER RELEASES PUBLIC APOLOGY TO HONDURAN JOURNALIST FOR ONLINE SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Presidential advisor Marvin Ponce has made a public apology to journalist Grethel Alemán Guevara for harassing messages that were sent from his account to the journalist over Facebook Messenger. Ponce still alleges that his account was managed by an assistant when those messages were sent. Guevara reportedly received aggressive, misogynistic messages from Ponce after she refused to talk about sex with him.
VIOLATORS OF TRANSPARENCY LAW ASKED TO TRAIN JOURNALISTS ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION
The Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP) and the College of Journalists of Honduras (CPH) have begun a collaborative effort to train journalists on the subject of access to information Previously, the leaders of CPH had repeatedly violated the Transparency Law by hiding information on the amount of funds they had been receiving.
HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS HAVE BEEN VICTIM OF SMEAR CAMPAIGN BY FNAMP
The Center for the Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and their Families (CPTRT) and other human rights organizations were targeted by smear campaigns by the National Anti-Maras and Gangs Force (FNAMP) for demanding that the Public Ministry carry out investigations into the injuries and the deaths of several prisoners on June 18 in the La Tolva maximum security prison. Colonel Amílcar Hernández from FNAMP has accused many of these organizations of working with criminal groups, even stating that Delma Ordóñez of the Association of Relatives of the Deprived of Liberty had received money from MS-13.
TWO MEN ALLEGEDLY INVOLVED IN MURDER OF JOURNALIST IN 2020 HAVE BEEN CAPTURED
On June 18, the Public Ministry captured two men allegedly involved in the shooting of journalist Luis Alonso Almendares on September 27, 2020 in Comayagua. These two men had followed Almendares to the places he frequented and shot him at a grocery store in his neighborhood. Almendares had died in the hospital the following day.
UNION LEADER FORCED TO FLEE HONDURAS AFTER RECEIVING DEATH THREATS
Dr. Ligia Ramos, a union leader, fled the country in response to death threats she had been receiving in addition to the National Police surveilling her and stalking her in front of her home in October 2020. This is all according to a statement released by the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), the College of Pedagogues of Honduras (COLPEDAGOGOSH) and the Latin American Regional of the IUF (rel-UITA).
HONDURAS ATTORNEY GENERAL REFUSES TO INCLUDE SUNLA INTO INVESTIGATION OF ABDUCTED GARÍFUNAS
In a public letter released on June 9, the Office of the Attorney General of Honduras has reportedly refused to incorporate the Committee for the Investigation and Search of the Disappeared of Triunfo de la Cruz (SUNLA) into the current investigation of the forced disappearance of four Garífunas. Heavily armed men with Dirección Policial de Investigaciones identification removed several Garífuna individuals from their homes, including the President of the Triunfo de la Cruz Board of Trustees. The letter stated that the inclusion of SUNLA in the investigation would “violate the principles of public international law regarding sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs.” Read the original demand to incorporate SUNLA in the investigations here.
JOURNALISTS CALL FOR MORE PUBLICITY SURROUNDING THE DAVID CASTILLO TRIAL
In an interview with pasodeanimalgrande.com, several journalists have stated that the trial against David Castillo, the alleged mastermind behind the murder of activist Berta Cáceres, has not been elevated enough in the media. Iolany Pérez from Radio Progreso and Espacio de Reflexión Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC) stated that though the trial is being broadcast through Facebook, often times the quality of the broadcast becomes much lower during any talk incriminating Castillo. He further stated that most of the reporting surrounding the case has been performed by independent or alternative media outlets. Pablo Zelaya from VTV stated that more coverage of the trial would elevate other cases of crimes against human rights defenders.
REPORTEROS DE INVESTIGACIÓN RELEASE INTERACTIVE CENTER WITH OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS ON CRIMES AGAINST ENVIRONMENTALISTS
Reporteros de Investigación has recently released a comprehensive list of official documents on crimes against environmentalists—all of which have been gathered by journalists from Honduras, Colombia, and Mexico. You are also able to access the public information documents on their RI Interactive Center.
COURTS ACCEPT THE COMMUTE OF SENTENCE AND PROCESS THE RELEASE FOR PROTESTOR ROMMEL BALDEMAR HERRERA
Rommel Baldemar Herrera—arrested on May 31, 2019 for participating in a protest against the government abuses with the Health and Education Platform—recently had his sentence of four years in prison commuted by the courts. He awaited the judicial system to process his release, which was granted this Friday, June 4. In 2019, Herrera participated in protests during which tires were burned, prompting the accusation of aggravated arson for which he was sentenced to four years in prison on December 3 and 4 of 2020. Herrera’s legal representatives reported that his release letter had still been pending until the Tegucigalpa Execution granted him his definitive release letter on June 4.
TEACHERS UNION DEMAND TRANSPARENCY FROM HONDURAN GOVERNMENT ABOUT STATUS OF VACCINES
The First Honduran Professional College of Teachers (Pricphma) has demanded that the Honduran government stop lying about the vaccination process and acquisition of new COVID-19 vaccines. This demand comes after 34,000 Hondurans were inoculated after assistance from Salvadoran authorities, suggesting that the Honduran government has been too slow in the inoculation process despite the government’s claims about acquiring 20 million vaccines.
CHOLUTECA MILITARY PERSONNEL FORMALLY INDICTED FOR INJURING A MINOR MISTAKEN FOR PROTESTOR
Commanding officer Edgardo Rodríguez Andrades was formally indicted for violating his duties as a public servant and for seriously injuring his victim. In the midst of post-electoral protests against the presidential reelection of Juan Orlando Hernández in 2017, Andrades and nine other military agents reportedly insulted, beat, and eventually chased down a 17-year-old boy, shooting him in the legs. They said they had mistaken him for a protester. Legal representative of the victim,Nidia Castillo, stated that this case displays the intense use of violent force by public officials against any kind of social protest and requested a reclassification of the crimes as torture for both the physical and phsychological trauma inflicted on the victim. The judge, however, denied this request.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS CELEBRATE THE CANCELLATION OF FINANCING FOR JILAMITO HYDROELECTRIC DAM AS A “SMALL TRIUMPH”
During a press conference on June 2, representatives of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) pointed out the withdrawal of financing by the United States toward private sector investment—including the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Jilamito project—as a small victory for environmental defenders. The initial approval given by the Trump administration has been cancelled by the Biden Administration, which has recently been revising policies toward Northern Triangle countries to reduce poverty, corruption, and violence. The MADJ representatives ask that the Inter-American Development Bank follow suit and withdraw funding toward these hydroelectric projects.
HONDURAN C-LIBRE JOURNALIST SEEKING ASYLUM DETAINED AT ICE DETENTION CENTER IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA
C-Libre reporter Thirzia Galeas was detained on Wednesday, May 26 at the ICE Steward Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, after fleeing Honduras after receiving death threats and threats of violence for her journalistic coverage of murders in Honduras. Galeas had entered the US with a tourist visa and asked for asylum from the persecution she was facing in Honduras. C-Libre has stated that the journalist has been held in a confined space with 30 other detainees, some infected with COVID-19, with no medical assistance provided.
REPORTS SHOW AT LEAST 90 HOMICIDES OF JOURNALISTS IN HONDURAS
On May 25, the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) along with the University Institute for Democracy, Peace, and Security (IUDPAS) published an infographic for Honduran Journalist Day, revealing that 90 homicides have been committed against journalists since 2005. The report detailed that many of the homicides were committed just after the 2009 coup d’état. Reporters Without Borders and UNESCO conducted a similar study detailing the attacks against journalists from 2011 to 2020, cataloguing Honduras as the second deadliest country in the Americas. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has further hindered free expression in the country as repeated instances of intimidation and destruction of media continue. —
MULTIPLE HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS DEMAND AN END TO THE UNJUST DETAINMENT OF INDIGENOUS LEADERS
Numerous human rights organizations—including, the Coalition Against Impunity (CCI), the Justice for Peoples Law Firm (BJP), the Honduran Center for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEH) and the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz—recently held a press conference criticizing ongoing arrests of indigenous and peasant peoples. The organizations demanded that the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice resolve the Amporo Appeal filed in favor of Víctor Vázquez and José Santos Vijil, both indigenous leaders who are currently in jail. These two leaders were accused of “forced displacement” while organizing in defense of their land, and several lawyers at the press conference pointed out the unjust bias against protestors.
CENTRAL AMERICAN ANTI-CORRUPTION ORGANIZATIONS SIGN AGREEMENT TO PROMOTE TRANSPARENCY IN POLITICAL PROCESSES
The Honduran National Anticorruption Council (CNA) and Guatemalan Myrna Mack Foundation (FMM) have signed an agreement to promote transparency and social audit processes for dealing with corruption in state institutions. The agreement received support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The signing of this agreement—in addition to addressing transparency in dealing with state corruption— aims to join together efforts between countries in the Northern Triangle.
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS CALL FOR TRANSPARENT INFORMATION ON CAMPAIGN FINANCES IN HONDURAS
On May 20, 2021, the Center for the Study of Democracy (CESPAD), the Justice for People’s Law Firm (BJP), the Anti-Corruption Coalition (CAC), Lawyers without Borders Canada, and the Association for Democracy and Human Rights (ASOPODEHU) introduced an annulment appeal before the Institute for Access of Public Information (IAIP). The appeal concerns a resolution that prevents Honduran citizens from knowing who is financing political campaigns in Honduras and was submitted in an attempt to guarantee citizens participation in public affairs, create more transparency from the Honduran government, and combat corruption.. The next IAIP is expected to review and resolve this request during the next plenary session.
DISINFORMATION REPORT REVEALS POLITICAL MANIPULATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA DURING THE MARCH PRIMARY ELECTIONS
On May 20, Aldo Salgado—an analyst at the Honduran Citizen Laboratory—presented a report titled “Disinformation and Computational Propaganda” which revealed that disinformation was disseminated on social media by various candidates during the March 2021 primary elections. This includes the creation of false accounts to generate support and approval, the creation of political Facebook ads and groups to attack different social movements, and a lack of transparency in the use of these techniques.
SANTA BÁRBARA JOURNALISTS THREATENED IN PRIVATE FOR CRITICAL REPORTING
Milton Turcios, a journalist for Paradise TV Santa Bárbara, reported that a stranger had confronted him twice in private, making verbal threats such as “you are talking too much.” This follows Turcios’s coverage of the ETA and IOTA hurricanes and the ensuing repair work in Malecón, Gualala, and Santa Bárbara. The journalist also wrote about those that were housed in shelters after the disaster.. Turcios reported not having confidence in filing a formal complaint with state institutions, so instead he opted to make a public statement on social media.
PEASANT AND INDIGENOUS RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS DEMAND APOLOGY FROM COHEP FOR DISRESPECTING TERRITORIAL STRUGGLE
On May 19, various peasant and indigenous organizations gathered under the Coalition Against Impunity (MTTBC-CCI) and issued a public statement demanding that the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) make a public apology for their discriminatory description of the human rights defenders protecting their land. COHEP had recently issued a public speech calling for State police to defend private property from “armed criminals who are invading land.” These peasant and indigenous organizations have been protesting the recent land-grabs by the agro-industries and landowners that have deprived the right of access to land for many who are still struggling from the effects of the pandemic and the hurricanes ETA and IOTA.
ABOUT 150 JOURNALISTS INFECTED BY COVID-19 SINCE PANDEMIC BEGAN
Since Honduras declared a national health emergency in April 2020, C-Libre has been monitoring the number of journalists infected with COVID-19. It was recently announced that 150 journalists have been infected by COVID-19 and at least 20 have died. This includes David Romero Elner, former director of Radio Globo, who died in prison due to COVID-19 complications that exposed him “to a state of extreme vulnerability,” according to the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA). During the pandemic, journalists have encountered restrictions to free expression in addition to an increasingly difficult financial, emotional, and physical environment.
JOURNALISTS DEMAND SECURITY AND RESPECT ON “WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY”
The Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre) and journalists from the Network of Alerts and Protection of Journalists and Social Communicators (RAPCOS) demanded security and respect for freedom of expression in Honduras. C-Libre held a tribune just outside of the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) denouncing the continuous attempts to silence, harass, and assassinate independent media and journalists across the country. C-Libre and members of RAPCOS also released a video that day detailing the legal and structural impediments to journalism in Honduras during 2020.
POLICE HARASS AND PROFILE VIVA BERTA FEMINIST CAMP
The Viva Berta feminist camp, established to demand justice for activist Berta Cáceres during the trial of one of the organizers behind her murder, have experienced repeated harassment and surveillance from members of the National Police. Yessica Trinidad, the coordinator of the National Network of Human Rights Defenders, reported that this situation intensified on May 11 when the camp established itself with the arrival of members of the Lenca, Garífuna, Chortí, Tolupan and Mestizo communities.
PUBLIC HEALTH WORKERS PROTEST LACK OF JOB SECURITY AND BIOSAFETY IN RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC
On May 13, health workers protested outside of the Ministry of Health in Tegucigalpa, citing authoritative abuse, intimidation, breach of contracts, and lack of biosafety while working during the pandemic. Several public health workers’ unions were in attendance, including the Union of Workers of Public Health Employees and Union of Medical, among others
CHOLUTECA RIVER ENVIRONMENTALISTS SUBJECT TO SURVEILLANCE, INTIMIDATION, AND TAMPERING WITH THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
Coordinator of Alternativa de Reivindicación Comunitaria y Ambientalista de Honduras (ARCAH) Christopher Castillo has stated that the environmentalists protecting the Choluteca River have been subject to surveillance and intimidation from the poultry company El Cortijo, which has been supported by several state institutions. Several members of ARCAH are currently on trial for their protests against El Cortijo and have reported cars with tinted windows circling their houses. Further, when the members were initially arrested, they had their phones confiscated. Castillo discovered upon return that they had possibly been tampered with.
UNARMED TOLUPAN INDIGENOUS RIGHTS DEFENDERS FIRED AT BY NATIONAL POLICE IN RESPONSE TO PROTESTS AGAINST ILLEGAL LOGGING
In the department of Yoro, the National Police and illegal loggers reportedly shot at indigenous Tolupán environmentalists and set fire to several buildings where Tolupánes reside and do business. This included the building where the local radio station,Radio Dignidad Tolupana, is located. The San Francisco de Locomapa Tribe has been attacked by armed forces in the past few years for defending their ancestral lands.
PROPOSALS TO CLEAN POLICY LAW WOULD ADDRESS TRANSPARENCY AND ACCESS TO PUBLIC INFORMATION ISSUES IN HONDURAS
The civil society organization Study Center for the Democracy (Cespad) recently proposed reforms to the Clean Policy Law and Clean Policy Unit, calling for more transparency and regulation with political financing and less impediments to public access to information. Many of these proposals arrive in response to the March primary elections, during which there was a high degree of non-compliance with the current Clean Policy Law.
UNAH STUDY SHOWS THAT HONDURAS CONTINUES TO BE THE MOST VIOLENT COUNTRY IN CENTRAL AMERICA
According to studies conducted by the National Observatory of Violence of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), Honduras continues to be ranked as the most violent country in Central America with a rate of 38.5 homicides per 1000,000 inhabitants, despite the general decrease in homicides seen over the past decade. UNAH Director Migdonia Ayestas stated that the most violent municipalities are the Central District, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, El Progreso, and La Ceiba. UNAH found that in 2020, 55.9% of violent deaths were due to organized crime, of which corruption, poverty and impunity were major contributing factors. Moreover, it was found that the Honduran government did not make the appropriate changes to deal with these particular issues.
VIDENCE CONFIRMS PLANNING OF THE MURDER OF BERTA CACERES DURING SECOND WEEK OF DAVID CASTILLO TRIAL
The second week of the trial against David Castillo for his involvement in the death of activist Berta Cáceres revealed that the murder, and initial surveillance, of the activist was planned. The second week of the trial began with the examination of evidence, which included cell phones and communications. Technicians found WhatsApp messages exchanged between Castillo and other conspirators planning the assassination days before the murder. The trial is set to extend until next week to fully examine all the evidence.
OLANCHAN PUBLIC OFFICIALS LIMIT ACCESS OF INFORMATION TO THE PRESS
Several Olanchan journalists reported that they were targeted with threats and harassment for their press work. Journalist Gelsomina Elizabeth Munguía received threats from the Electric Power Company (EEH) after reporting on power outages and from municipal employees for being critical of their work. Meanwhile, sports journalist Mario Oseguera stated that journalists face censorship and threats for reporting on crime scenes,and even for being critical of sports leaders, and are often prevented from covering the scene.
UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS PUBLISH LETTER EXPRESSING CONCERN OVER TREATMENT OF LENCAS INDIGENOUS HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
UN special rapporteurs have published a letter of allegations addressed to the State of Honduras expressing deep concern over the prosecution and detention of indigenous defenders Víctor Vásquez and José Santos Vijil on December 11 and 9 2020, stating that the detention of the two was not supported by objective evidence. Vásquez and Vijil were effectively criminalized for their rights to freedom of association and expression. he letter also criticized the murder of environmental rights defender Félix Vásquez on December 26 Vásquez had already received death threats and had protested the detainment of Víctor Vásquez only 10 days prior to his murder.
ASOPODEHU AND PASOS DE ANIMALES GRANDE RELEASE NEW REPORT ON THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC ON FREE EXPRESSION IN 2020
In a recent report released by Pasos de Animales Grande in collaboration with the Association for Democracy and Human Rights in Honduras (ASOPODEHU), Honduran journalists, reporters, and defenders of free expression all reported a general degradation of free expression in Honduras throughout 2020. This is primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of hurricanes that hit the country throughout the year. Many also reported feeling frustrated with the government for their management of the pandemic and that they have been living in an environment of stress and uncertainty without economic safety nets or sufficient aid. You can read the full report here.
REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS LATIN AMERICA DIRECTOR STATES THAT HONDURAN AUTHORITIES HAVE BEEN HINDERING THE WORK OF JOURNALISTS
In an interview with pasodeanimalgrande.com, Reporters Without Borders Director for Latin America Emmanuel Colombié stated that Honduran authorities have taken advantage of the pandemic in order to increase censorship and hinder the work of journalists. This interview has followed their recent Press Freedom Report, wherein Honduras was ranked down to the 151st position in the World Press Freedom Index. You can watch the full interview with Colombié here.
PANDEMIC SUSPENSION OF FACE-TO-FACE COUNCILS LEADS TO DISCRIMINATORY VIRTUAL COUNCILS
The Committee of Common and Public Goods of Tocoa, Colón has published a complaint against the Minera Inversiones Los Pinares mining company for sending men to harass the eight environmental defenders of the Guapinol River. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR) expressed “deep concern” about these threats and has urged authorities to take the necessary measures to protect these environmentalists.
PUBLIC MINISTRY PRESENTS PROSECUTION REQUEST AGAINST 5 INDIVIDUALS TO BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MURDER OF LENCA LEADER FÉLIX VÁSQUEZ LÓPEZ
The Public Ministry has presented a prosecution request against Josué Exequiel Martínez Martínez, Syriaco Mejía Santos, Francisco López Lazo, and Mario Aníbal López Velásquez for the crimes of murder and robbery with violence against the Lenca indigenous leader Félix Vásquez López, commited last year on December 26 in the municipality of Santiago de Puringla. The Public Ministry had been investigating the environmentalist and human rights defender since January of this year and found evidence that the five individuals listed above had entered López’s property dressed in military attire and carrying firearms and bladed weapons. They killed López after a struggle and subsequently killed three more people in the house. This request has been presented before the La Paz Sectional Court of Letters.
2021 RSF INDEX DECLARES THAT PANDEMIC HAS MADE PRESS ENVIRONMENT MORE HOSTILE FOR JOURNALISTS IN HONDURAS & REST OF LATIN AMERICA
The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 World Press Freedom Index has shown a general decline in press freedom in Latin America, with Honduras down 3 points, now ranking 151st on RSF’s global press freedom ranking list. The report emphasizes that coverage of the pandemic was made more difficult due to authoritarian measures taken by president Juan Orlando Hernández in response to the crisis.
JOURNALISTS AT FREE EXPRESSION WORKSHOPS STATE THAT THEY HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO THREATS AND PERSECUTION
Journalists at workshops held by the Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre) both in Copán and Lempira have stated that they have been subject to threats and persecution by the government and police agents. Multiple journalists at the event reported harassment during live coverage, aggression by the police during broadcasts, limited access to government institutions, and a general lack of information and freedom to expose said information.
COMPLAINTS AGAINST DEPUTY MARÍA LUISA BORJAS THREATEN FREE EXPRESSION
National Congress Deputy María Luisa Borjas has been denounced for exposing violations performed by alleged corrupt officials. After Borjas publicly pointed out the existence of fraud in the March 2021 primary elections, Mario Sorto Deras from the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) denounced Borjas for insults and slander. Borjas’ lawyer, Kenia Oliva, has stated that these complaints against the Deputy reaffirm the fact that criminal law is still being used to punish free expression, and specifically target those who reveal corruption.
PANDEMIC SUSPENSION OF FACE-TO-FACE COUNCILS LEADS TO DISCRIMINATORY VIRTUAL COUNCILS
Multiple Honduran human rights organizations have declared that the resolution in Legislative Decree 154-2020, which has suspended open face-to-face councils because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a discriminatory practice since “only 31.7% of the population has some type of internet access.” In this video, you can hear the representatives of these organizations read their statement.
ARCAH MEMBERS CONDUCTING PEACEFUL PROTEST ACCUSED OF FORCED DISPLACEMENT AND FACE JAIL TIME
Members of Alternativa de Reivindicación Comunitaria y Ambientalista de Honduras (ARCAH) were violently arrested by the police on March 29 as they were peacefully protesting the Pollos el Cortijo company. The seven members arrested are accused of forced displacement, an article within the new Honduran Penal Code. They are set to begin trial in May. You can listen to Cristopher Castillo, a member of ARCAH among the arrested, recount his experiences in this interview with Los Pasos de Animal Grande.
GARÍFUNA RALLY EXPELLED FROM SAN PEDRO SULA CHURCH DURING PROTEST
On April 14th, Garífuna community gathered at the central park in front of the San Pedro Sula Catholic Church protesting and celebrating Garífuna Survival Day were ordered to vacate the cathedral and move to Third Avenue. Leaders in attendance have stated that they have not been allowed in the park for two years.
ARMED MEN BREAK INTO WOMEN’S RIGHTS HEADQUARTERS
On Wednesday, April 14th multiple armed men broke into the headquarters of the Council for the Integral Development of Peasant Women (Codimca) in Tegucigalpa, beating two members and stealing several computers. The armed men were seeking information on Yásmin López, the coordinator of the organization. This attack occurs a few days after Codimca filed an appeal against the Court of Appeals for releasing 22 individuals implicated in the Pandora case, where 282 million lempiras from the Ministry of Agriculture intended for development were diverted.
JOURNALISTS IN DANLÍ REPORT THREATS, CENSORSHIP AND INTIMIDATION WITHOUT PROTECTION BY THE GOVERNMENT
During a training session held by the Committee for Free Expression and representatives of the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH), multiple members of the media in attendance claimed they had experienced attacks, threats, denunciation, and detainment for performing their journalistic duties. Reporter Reina Sandoval stated they experienced discriminate verbal and physical attacks for being women. Many journalists in attendance demanded protection and a respect for the freedom of expression.
HUMAN RIGHTS BOARD OF HONDURAS DEMANDS AN END TO THE MISUSE OF CRIMINAL LAW TO CRIMINALIZE PEACEFUL PROTESTERS DEFENDING THE CHOLUTECA RIVER
The Human Rights Board of Honduras has demanded an end to the misuse of criminal law that the Public Ministry and Judiciary have used against members of Alternativa de Reivindicación Comunitaria y Ambientalista de Honduras (ARCAH). Five human rights defenders from ARCAH had to appear at an Initial Hearing on April 13th, 2021 for protesting the El Cortijo company’s pollution of the Choluteca River. The Human Rights Board has demanded that the Public Ministry close this file and that the Judiciary dismiss them from court.
LETTER FROM RSM RESTRICTING DOCTORS FROM GIVING INTERVIEWS ON MANAGEMENT OF COVID-19
An official letter published by the Department of Integrated Networks of Health Services (RSM) on April 7th has restricted doctors located in the Central District Triage Centers from giving interviews on the management of COVID-19. The letter (231-RISS-RSM-2021) designates Dr. Harry Bock Malara, the Chief of the Metropolitan Health Region, as the only person authorized to provide statements to the media. Dr. Carlos Umaña, president of the Medical Association of the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS), has demanded that authorities remove this memorandum and claims that government authorities have been repeatedly censoring the disasters of the pandemic. In a call with Blanca Izaguirre, the National Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Umaña stated that it is a constitutional right for citizens to be able to express themselves and for all information surrounding the pandemic to be accessible to the public.
LAWYER INDIANA BEATRIZ CASTELLANOS BARAHONA FOUND DEAD IN TEGUCIGALPA
Well-known lawyer Indiana Beatriz Castellanos Barahona was found dead in her truck at the Copacabana residential area in Tegucigalpa on March 30. In the past, Barahona had been involved in the Pandora case, during which she served as a legal representative for Eduardo Enrique Lanza Raudales. Police found in the truck a note stating “por quita maridos,” which police speculate may be the reason her life was taken.
TRIAL OF DAVID CASTILLO, THE ALLEGED MASTERMIND BEHIND BERTA CÁCERAS’ MURDER, PAUSED
The trial of Roberto David Castillo Mejía, alleged mastermind behind the murder of environmental and Indegenous rights defender Berta Cáceres, was suspended on Wednesday. Castillo’s lawyers have asked the Court of Appeals to move the case to another court, and the trial cannot continue until the Court of Appeals resolves this matter. Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, the daughter of Bertha Cáceres, claims that this is an attempt to delay the trial, which is scheduled to continue until April 30.
OHCHR CORRESPONDENTS DENIED ENTRY TO THE TRIAL OF DAVID CASTILLO
Despite a mandate to advise the State on human rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR) has been denied access to the trial of David Castillo, the alleged mastermind behind the murder of activist Berta Cáceres. International observers from the Qualified Observation Mission and other Honduran human rights defenders have also been denied access.
UN RAPPORTEUR STATES ANTI-TERRORISM LAWS HAVE BEEN USED TO CRIMINALIZE INDIGENOUS HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Representatives from the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), along with spokespeople from the Honduran Garífuna community, met with the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples in a virtual meeting on April 5 to discuss the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. During the meeting, participating Rapporteur José Francisco Calí Tzay explained that antiterrorist laws have affected the rights of indigenous people. You can watch the full event here.
LGBTQ+ TRANS ACTIVIST VANESSA ZÚNIGA MURDERED ON TRANSGENDER VISIBILITY DAY
Vanessa Zúniga, a trans activist working with the Association for Prevention and Education in Health and Sexuality, was found dead on March 31 in Tela, Atlántida. CONADEH, the National Commission of Human Rights in Honduras, has indicated that this crime, along with the ongoing surges of violence against the Honduran LGBTQ+ community, are classified in the Penal Code as discrimination.
COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS USED TO OBSTRUCT JOURNALISTS FROM ENTERING ORAL TRIAL CHAMBER
Journalist Martín Ramírez has stated that he and other journalists have not been allowed to cover or report on events within the Oral Trial Chamber due to COVID-19 restrictions. The spokesperson of the Judiciary has stated that this measure has been adopted to protect those appearing at trial.
MURDERER OF JOURNALIST ERICK MARTÍNEZ ÁVILA BACK ON TRIAL
Gustavo Adolfo Sánchez, the alleged murderer of Erick Martínez Ávila, was summoned once again on March 25th to restart his trial for the crime. Erick Martínez Ávila was a journalist critical of the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, a member of the National Front of Popular Resistance, and was a spokesman for the LGBTQ+ organization Kulkulcán. Ávila was found suffocated on May 7th, 2012. When the case was restarted in January 2021 by the Supreme Court of Justice, the defense requested the proceedings be paused by the Sentencing Court with National Jurisdiction because two of the judges had fallen ill with COVID-19. Journalists have attempted to access the Sentencing Court, but the press has been repeatedly denied access due to COVID-19 restrictions.
FEMINIST VIRTUAL CONFERENCE FACES ONLINE HARASSMENT IN AN ATTEMPT TO SABOTAGE THE PRESENTATION
On March 18th, a Zoom conference on the topic of peasant and popular feminism co-coordinated by Via Campesina, the Council for the Integral Development of Peasant Women, the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women from Chile, and several Honduran organizations was flooded with pornographic content from anonymous users in an attempt to sabotage the presentation. This attack is one of several instances of harassment toward virtual events organized by women organizations this year.
INDIGENOUS LEADER JUAN CARLOS CERROS ASSASSINATED IN NUEVA GRANADA NEIGHBORHOOD
Indigenous leader and environmentalist Juan Carlos Cerros was shot to death on his way home in the Nueva Granada neighborhood between Cinda in Santa Bárbara and San Antonio in Cortés on March 21st, 2021. Cerros was a representative of communities living by the Ulúa River, a coordinator of the Nueva Granada Indigenous Council, and a member of the National Indigenous Platform Honduras and Santabarbarense Environmental Movement (MAS). In a recent public statement, Betty Vásquez, a coordinator for MAS, stated that Cerros’ murder was a political crime in retalliation to his activism in the territory.
GUAPINOL DEFENDER JEREMÍAS MARTÍNEZ GAINS FREEDOM AFTER MORE THAN 2 YEARS IN PRISON
Jeremías Martínez, one of the environmentalist leaders defending the Guapinol River, has finally regained his freedom after 26 months in prison. The activist was accused of crimes of usurpation and damages by the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares. He had been held in La Ceiba city jail since 2018., Earlier this year, from February 22 to 25, a trial was held to review the charges against him and, on March 17th, the Supreme Court of Justice in Tegucigalpa ruled in his favor.
JOURNALIST IN OMOA, CORTÉS EXPERIENCES HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION FROM NATIONAL POLICE
In a recent interview with Conexihon.hn, Maricio Ortega — a journalist living in Omoa, Cortés — shared that he has experienced harassment and intimidation from the National Police in response to his criticisms of impunity within the Honduran criminal justice system. He concluded his interview by stating that authorities need to respect the work of journalists and by calling for a fast-acting support system that could assist journalists who are in danger simply for doing their job.
MILITARY DEPLOYMENT INTIMIDATES VOTERS AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN REITOCA DURING PRIMARY ELECTION
A number of human rights defenders have reported hostile military personnel were deployed at election sites in Reitoca the morning of the March 14th primary elections alleging that this military presence was used to ensure the reelection of mayor Marlon Osorto Chevez. Since 2017, human rights activists have defended the Pentacón River from being overtaken by Progelsa, a hydroelectric company the mayor has supported. Defenders like Bartolomé García (coordinator of the Lenca Indigenous Council) and Racquel Cruz Flores claim that the presence of these authorities prevented them from voting for an opposition candidate who would support human rights and the defense of the river.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL REPORT STATES HONDURAS HAS ADOPTED 203 OF THE 223 HUMAN RIGHTS RECOMMENDATIONS
The Universal Periodic Review—conducted as a part of the UN Human Rights Council—has examined Honduras’s human rights progress in the past five years and has reported that the country has adopted 203 of their 223 recommendations from their previous examination in 2015. International organizations such as Article19 have responded to the report by maintaining that journalists and human rights rights defenders are still facing tremendous violence and that punishment for attacks and intimidation continues with great impunity. You can access the UN’s report here.
INFORMATION OBSTRUCTION, BLACKOUTS, AND WIDESPREAD VOTER REPRESSION DURING MARCH 14TH PRIMARY ELECTIONS
As primary elections unfolded on March 14, around the country journalists reported being denied entry into voting centers by military and National Party officials, preventing them from performing news coverage and other journalistic activities. Some areas of the country reported blackouts, lack of space at voting centers (taken up primarily by National Party officials), delays in the delivery of ballots and other necessary supplies for voting, and a general lack of access to voting.
CONGRESSMEN REINTRODUCE THE BERTA CÁCERES HUMAN RIGHTS LAW TO U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) — along with co-leaders Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Deputy Chuy García (IL-04), and Deputy Joaqín Castro (TX-20) — reintroduced the Berta Cáceras Human Rights Law to the House of Representatives on March 3. This law would suspend U.S. funds to the Honduran police and military. It would also sanction international loans for security assistance until the Honduran government reaches legal verdicts on the murder of environmental and human rights defender Berta Cáceras and other agricultural activists, investigates the military and police personnel responsible for the violation of human rights, and takes “effective steps to establish the rule of law.”
2020 OHCHR REPORT INDICATES SURVEILLANCE AND THREATS TO JOURNALISTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
In a report released on March 10 by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Representative Isabel Alballadejo Escribano highlighted the violence and human rights threats issued against journalists and human rights defenders in Honduras throughout 2020-2021. The report also emphasized the massive role the COVID-19 pandemic has played in the economic instability of marginalized groups and its overall negative effects on the criminal justice system within the country.
TRIAL FOR ACCUSED MASTERMIND BEHIND BERTA CÁCERAS’S ASSASINATION SCHEDULED FOR JUNE 2021
It was recently reported that the president of Desa, David Roberto Castillo Meija, is now scheduled to face trial in June 2021 for the murder of environmental and indigenous activist Berta Cáceras. Desa was one of the companies behind the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project in Itibucá and NAME was arrested and indicted in 2018, accused ofbeing the potential mastermind behind the Cáceras’s murder. and. Cáceras had been leading protests against the construction of the dam in 2016, leading many to believe that executives of the Agua Zarca company were behind her muder.
ARTICLE19 AND HUMAN RIGHTS JOURNALISTS DISCUSS POTENTIAL DANGERS OF UPCOMING PRIMARY ELECTION
Human rights organizations Article19 and the Association for Democracy and Human Rights (ASOPODEHU) held a virtual conference on March 7 for journalists and their networks across the country to discuss the upcoming March 14th primary elections. During the discussion, many journalists indicated their difficulties in collecting information, their fears around the possibility of violent gang presence, and their concerns about the irresponsibility of police. A number of journalists also voiced that the general atmosphere of distrust toward the media in the country is contributing to growing fears of danger at voting centers that journalists must remain wary of in the coming days.
VIRTUAL POLITICAL FORUM EXPERIENCES CYBER ATTACKS
On March 2nd, Organization Ayudamos Honduras (OAH) — along with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Faculty of Social Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) — held a virtual forum which was disrupted by cyberattacks. During the forum, the first guest was harassed and interrupted by users during his presentation. The forum was organized to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has increased political polarization throughout Latin America and, in particular, how the pandemic has played a role within elections.
INVESTIGATION OF PANDORA CASE REVEALS MILLIONS OF LEMPIRAS DIVERTED FROM THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR TO FINANCING OF JOURNALISTS
Hilda Hernández, the Minister of Communication and Strategy and the late sister of president Juan Hernández, was revealed to have promised more than 70 journalists funds originally meant for the Agriculture sector. The Special Fiscal Unit Against Corruption Networks (UFERCO) recently presented documents detailing last tax requirements wherein checks were issued for 77 reporters for advertising and propaganda when Juan Hernández took office in 2014. The Honduran College of Journalists have considered this corruption scandal a hate campaign.
JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF DISCREDITS MEDIA IN THEIR COVERAGE OF GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION
In the face of accusations made toward the government of Honduras and their possible collaboration with illicit activities, Joint Chief of Staff Tito Livo Moreno has accused the media of promoting a “malicious campaign” against the President and his government. This statement was made amidst current investigations by U.S. prosecutors into President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s personal involvement in drug trafficking, which has had lukewarm coverage in Honduras by traditional media outlets.
HONDURAS HUMAN RIGHTS AND ANTI-CORRUPTION ACT OF 2021 INTRODUCED TO US CONGRESS
U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and other lawmakers introduced the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act of 2021 to Congress on February 23, 2021. This legislation comes in response to the Orlando administration’s corruption and human rights abuses and would impose sanctions on President Juan Orlando Hernández, suspending U.S. security assistance and licenses for defense equipment for the Honduran police and military.
HCH JOURNALIST RECEIVES DEATH THREATS FOR REPORTING ON GANG VIOLENCE IN INTIBUCÁ
Habla Como Habla journalist Charly Pineda and his family were recently forced to flee Intibucá because of the continued death threats that have been sent to him in response to his coverage of gang violence in the area. Pineda has stated that, while police have been able to relocate him and his family, government authorities in general have not been doing enough to protect reporters around the country.
UN SECRETARY GENERAL CRITICIZES COUNTRIES USING PANDEMIC AS PRE-TEXT TO CRUSH DISSENT AND FREE SPEECH
In a piece published in The Guardian, UN Secretary General António Guterres highlighted how COVID-19 restrictions have been co-opted to detain, prosecute, intimidate, and surveil human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, political activists, medical professionals, and citizens criticizing the government. “Using the pandemic as a pretext,” he writes, “authorities in some countries have deployed heavy-handed security responses and emergency measures to crush dissent, criminalise basic freedoms, silence independent reporting and restrict the activities of nongovernmental organisations.”
VIRTUAL WOMEN’S RIGHTS EVENTS TARGETED BY CYBER ATTACKS
On February 16, an online presentation from CARE and UN Women Honduras, entitled, “Análisis Rápido de Género en Honduras: Un Panorama ante la Covid-19 y Eta y Iota,” was subject to cyber attacks and forced to cancel. Both groups have reported previous attacks during other online events and are currently seeking to hold those responsible accountable. This is the fourth virtual women’s event to be cyber attacked in Honduras in 2021.
Journalists Covering Keyla Martínez's Murder in Police Custody Face Threats and Harassment
Amongst efforts to investigate the murder of nursing student Keyla Patricia Martínez Rodríguez, Noticieros Hoy Mismo news correspondent Henry Fiallos has received threats of violence for his coverage. It is possible that police modified the murder scene after Martínez died in police custody. In the days following Martínez’s reported death on February 6th, there have been multiple accounts of intimidation by the police in an attempt to cover up reported abuses.
EL LIBERTADOR WEBSITE ATTACKED BY POLITICAL BOTS
El Libertador has experienced a siege of political bots on their website, particularly on articles critical of the Honduran government and the UN. The digital newspaper has been experiencing such attacks since its creation in 2009.
Garífuna Protests in La Ceiba Violated by State Aggression
Organized under Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH), a grassroots organization dedicated to the Garífuna people, Garífuna communities have been protesting the violations to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) guarantees of right to territory in La Ceiba. Garífuna protestors’ right to assembly has been threatened by aggression and threats of criminalization by the State of Honduras.
Broadcast Journalist and Radio Bambi Founder Pedro Canelas Murdered by Armed Gunman
On December 19, 2020, radio journalist Pedro Canelas was killed by an armed motorcyclist in Dulce Nombre de Culmí. Canelas was the owner of Radio Bambi (“La Voz de Culmí”) where he covered politics and was a member of the local Catacamas Journalist Association.
Police detained journalists for more than seven hours
Police detained journalists Cesario Padilla and Miriam Elvir for more than seven hours. The police accused them of disrespecting authority.
Armed men are after the Women in Guapinol
The National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras (RNDDH) spoke out against the armed men, police, and military linked to the mining company Los Pinares who constantly surveil and harass women fighting to protect the Guapinol River.
Assassination of Environmental Leader who was Prosecuted for Defending the Guapinol River
Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, an environmental rights defender who had been prosecuted by the Los Pinares mining company since 2019, was murdered in his own home. His death has generated a number of condemnatory reactions and demands for prompt, impartial and transparent justice.
Civil society groups prepare their arguments for the UPR to show that the State of Honduras has violated the rights of its citizens
Civil society organizations in Honduras participated in the Universal Periodic Examination (UPR), voicing their concerns about the increase in militarism, corruption, government policies that violate fundamental human rights, and the exacerbation of the country’s conditions due to COVID-19.
MP insists on prosecuting journalist Jairo López
The Public Ministry in Honduras intends to prosecute journalist Jairo López, following up on a trial against him that has been abandoned for over a year. In the past, López has endured numerous complaints, smear campaigns, government surveillance, threats, illegal captures, trials to criminalize his exercise of journalism, and attempts on his life.
Honduran journalist Luis Alonzo Almendares shot and killed
On September 27, two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle shot Luis Alonso Almendares, a freelance journalist who used Facebook to report on local news related to alleged corruption and mismanagement by government officials.
The Conviction of Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa
Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, journalist, journalism graduate, student leader, and board member and founding member of PEN Honduras, is being prosecuted by the Honduran government. PEN International believes that he is being targeted for exercising the right to free expression.
Inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Twitter
Buzzfeed News reports that accounts on Facebook using thousands of inauthentic assets to boost President Juan Orlando Hernandez still remain active. Similarly, on April 2, 2020, Twitter discovered and deleted 3,104 accounts accessing Twitter from a single IP range in Honduras. These fake accounts were created by a staffer on the government’s behalf, intended to retweet and support the president’s account.