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Press freedom violations continue post-coup

On 5 July 2009, thousands of demonstrators gathered around the Tegucigalpa airport to greet ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Army troops blocked the runway, preventing Zelaya from landing
On 5 July 2009, thousands of demonstrators gathered around the Tegucigalpa airport to greet ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Army troops blocked the runway, preventing Zelaya from landing

Stephen Ferry/Human Rights Watch

Amid a continuing climate of media harassment after the coup, a correspondent for Radio América was killed by an unidentified gunman on 3 July in northern Honduras, report Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Wihout Borders (RSF). Although the killing may not be linked to the crisis, press freedom continues to suffer in the coup's aftermath, say the members.

Gabriel Fino Noriega, who also worked for Channel 9 and the local radio station Estelar, was gunned down as he was leaving Estelar in San Juan Pueblo, Atlántida, says C-Libre. Local police say he was shot at 11 times and died en route to the hospital.

The political crisis following the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya on 29 June has seriously affected the press freedom climate in Honduras but CPJ says initial reports have not connected the killing to the coup, according to Honduran station Radio América.

However, the office of Radio América in Tegucigalpa was itself attacked with explosives last week, and a grenade was thrown at Channel 11's headquarters in the capital on 4 July, say C-Libre and RSF.

"We are under so much pressure that if we even make an error in the number of people who are at a march we become the target of threats via messages and phone calls. We are in a difficult situation unlike any we have experienced before in our lives as journalists," said Nancy Jhon, a Channel 11 journalist.

Many of the stations that did not support the coup have been taken off the air, forced to devote significant coverage to demonstrations in favour of the new government, or harassed by the military.

Nahún Palacios, the director of Canal 5 TV, said that security forces assaulted him and raided his station on 30 June, seizing his equipment and destroying the facilities, after he broadcast images of pro-Zelaya protests, reports C-Libre.

Palacios fears for his life. "Armed men grabbed my children, they raided my home," he said. "In Honduras, we have lost the constitutional guarantees afforded to citizens. A person is worth nothing. No one can talk about anything."

Later, the armed forces called a meeting for local journalists and warned them not to report on the coup.

Reporter Luis Galdamez, who hosts a show on the independent station Radio Globo Honduras, is back on the air but the military told him not to criticise the new government. According to RightsAction.org, he refuses to be silent, but he's scared. "I get death threats every day. I don't even read my text messages anymore, they're so grotesque," he said.

International condemnation of the coup was swift and near-unanimous, as countries moved to isolate the interim leadership. The Organisation of American States passed a resolution on 4 July suspending Honduras from the OAS.

Zelaya tried to return to Honduras on 5 July. But the military blocked his plane from landing and warded off more than 100,000 supporters. Two protesters were killed and at least 10 were wounded in the clashes, reports Human Rights Watch.

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Report of Mexican citizen journalist's murder appears via her own twitter account http://t.co/tuTkEPdwxr | @pressfreedom #Mexico