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Armed men storm online daily's offices

(C-Libre/IFEX) - At 1:30 p.m. (local time) on 8 June 2009, four armed men stormed the offices of the online daily Hondudiario.com and fired shots into the air. The daily's director, Arístides Aceituno, said thirty employees were in the building at the time of the assault. Hondudiario.com's offices are located in the exclusive Palmira neighbourhood of the capital, Tegucigalpa.

According to Aceituno, this is the second assault the daily has suffered in less than 15 days. Aceituno views the incident as an "attempt to intimidate the daily." He told C-Libre, "This is an attack on freedom of expression and journalism. Officials linked to the government are behind it. I don't believe it was President Manuel Zelaya. I have met him and he is an upstanding person. There are other journalists who do things, who question the president more and nothing has happened to them. But there are people behind the president who are uncomfortable when issues (relating to the government) are touched upon."

The assailants, who stayed in the building for more than 20 minutes, destroyed equipment used by Hondudiario.com employees to write articles and upload them to the web page. "How can this be an act of common crime. There is a jewellery store next door with money and items made of gold and silver, why would they come and assault us?", Aceituno added.

None of Hondudiario.com's employees were injured in the assault.

This incident took place in the midst of an escalation of violence in Honduras. Recently, two journalists have been kidnapped and two more assassinated in the country. The authorities have not yet determined the motives behind the assassinations. One of the kidnapped journalists was held for 18 days, then released when his family paid a ransom. The other has been held since March and the reasons for his kidnapping are still not known.

In May, journalist Armando Villanueva, who writes a column for the daily "El Heraldo" and directs a television programme, filed a request for protection at an office of the National Human Rights Commission (Comisionado Nacional de Derechos Humanos), saying that he is being harassed by individuals presumably linked to the government since he has been highly critical of the Zelaya administration.

After going to the Hondudiario.com offices, the president of the Honduras Journalists' Association (Colegio de Periodistas de Honduras), Elan Reyes, said, "I'm not sure if this was an attack on freedom of expression, but we've always said that when media outlets or journalists have to work in uncertain conditions, whether it be because of common crime or for other reasons, there's no possibility of working freely. There are indications that there are people who have an interest in threatening this media outlet, but we don't know who they are. The important thing is that media outlets such as this should never be subjected to any kind of attack."

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