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Honduran journalists killed with impunity, report says

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Seven journalists have been killed in Honduras this year
  • The government has not solved any of the crimes
  • The inaction creates an atmosphere of impunity, according to a journalists' group

(CNN) -- The killings of seven journalists in Honduras so far this year have not been seriously investigated by authorities, creating an atmosphere lawlessness and impunity, concluded a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists released Tuesday.

All seven were shot, and there is evidence that at least three were killed because of their work as journalists, the New York-based organization said.

The Honduran government's response has been an initial silence followed by a period in which a top official dismissed the killings as routine street crimes, CPJ said.

"As a result, many journalists fear the murders have been conducted with the tacit approval, or even outright complicity, of police, armed forces, or other authorities," the report states.

The killings, which happened in various parts of the country, come at a time when Honduras is trying to mend the political and social fabric after last year's coup that ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya.

There were allegations that during the period of the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti, there was harrassment of media outlets opposed to the coup. In the unrest the followed the coup, the de facto government at one point passed an emergency decree that curtailed some civil rights and allowed the government to close down media outlets that threatened "peace and order."

Current President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo was elected in November and accepted by some governments, including the United States, but abroad and domestically, his government faces credibility issues.

In one of the killings, Nahuam Palacios, the main anchor for Channel 5 in the town of Tocoa, was gunned down at his house on March 14.

Palacios, like other journalists in Honduras, was not just a reporter but also an activist. According to CPJ, Palacios opposed the coup and turned his television station into an openly opposition channel. At one point, troops appeared at his house and detained him and his family for several hours. Because of the threats, Palacios' name was on a list of more than 400 journalists and activists that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights gave to the government, demanding extra protection for those on the list.

The government ignored most of the requests on the list, and Palacios was living with no additional protection when he was killed, according to the report.

Colleagues of another reporter, broadcast journalist David Meza in the city of La Ceiba, said he was killed because he criticized the police too strongly.

However, the journalistic ethics of both of these journalists are not the same as those in the United States. Colleagues for both admitted, according to the CPJ report, that there existed allegations that Meza and Palacios used their positions as high-profile reporters to extort businesses.

The bottom line, however, CPJ said, is that the crimes remain unsolved and journalists work in fear.

"The government's ongoing failure to successfully investigate crimes against journalists and other social critics -- whether by intention, impotence, or incompetence -- has created a climate of pervasive impunity," the report states.

The government of Honduras did not immediately comment on the contents of the report.

In June, however, the government did ask for the help of the U.S. FBI in solving the crimes.

CPJ cast doubt on the request for help, calling it "more symbolic than real."