The U.S. Administration is stepping in to protect human rights in Honduras, stricken by an escalation of press freedom violations and violent attacks against journalists.
On September 13, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Maria Otero, and Honduran President Porfirio Lobo teamed up to launch the U.S.-Honduras High-Level Bilateral Human Rights Working Group.
With sub-committees in the Honduran capital and Washington, D.C., the new group is set to investigate recent crimes plaguing local reporters. Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world, is noted as one of the most dangerous countries for members of the media. In the last four years, 22 journalists and at least 20 members of the LGBT community have been murdered. Many human rights activists have also been harassed by gangs and local political groups.
“The goal of the Working Group is to advance cooperation on human rights, rule of law, combating impunity, and strengthening democratic institutions,” according to the United States Embassy in Honduras.
“We have recorded an escalation in press freedom violation and violent attacks against journalists,” Dalphine Hagland, Washington Director for Reporters Without Borders told the media. “It’s just that in Honduras no journalist would dare to report on human rights violation or land conflicts…they know that they could face serious reprisals.”
Earlier this month, Jonathan Cockborn Delgado was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the muder of Television de Honduras producer Jorge Alberto “Georgino” Orellana. In addition, “Mara 18” street gang member Eduardo Lopez was arrested in connection with the killing of journalist and gay rights activist Erick Martinez. However, there are numerous unsolved cases, which may have prompted the Working Group to develop.
It is still uncertain exactly how the Working Group will help battle the growing death rate affecting Honduran reporters. Many of these journalists were previously threatened, creating fear among those willing to investigate ongoing issues impacting their country.
“Any murder has the effect of intimidating the press corps and causing some journalists to pull their punches and not report what they see as the truth,” Tracy Wilkinson, Mexico City Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times, told the Latin American News Dispatch. “This is disastrous for society, which ends up being ill-informed. In a way, not knowing what is really behind the killings ends up creating a multitude of possibilities and a multitude of reasons for journalists to be afraid.”