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Community radio station resumes broadcasting in tense environment

(AMARC/RSF/IFEX) - 1 February 2011 - The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are waiting for the Honduran authorities to give a clear signal that they will provide physical and legal protection to the country's minority news media. In addition, the two organisations will hold the authorities responsible for any act of censorship against Radio Faluma Bimetu.

Also known in Spanish as Radio Coco Dulce, this community radio station is the mouthpiece of the country's Garifuna (Afro-Honduran) community. Based in Triunfo de la Cruz, in the Atlantic coast municipality of Tela, the station resumed broadcasting on 26 January 2011, after being forced off the air for 12 days due to threats.

The fate of Triunfo de la Cruz and its radio station is being threatened by the same combination of forces that is undermining much of the rest of the county: the collusion of local officials with the agrarian and industrial oligarchy; the impact of organised crime along the Atlantic seaboard, where 10 people, including a journalist, were murdered in 2010; and the repression stemming from the June 2009 coup d'état, which has targeted minority media and journalists in particular.

AMARC and RSF call not only for an end to impunity for the murders of journalists but also for the restoration of real media pluralism, which was shattered by the coup. The government, which recently obtained foreign aid, is going through the motions of solving the murders of journalists in 2010, but the fact remains that opposition media continue to be persecuted, threatened and intimidated. What happens to Radio Faluma Bimetu will serve as a test.

Radio Faluma Bimetu received assistance from AMARC and RSF after it was destroyed by an arson attack in January 2010. Now, a year later, the Tela municipal authorities are trying to impose a new management board (patronato).

Community leader Alfredo López, who is the station's director, appeared in court on 14 January 2011 in connection with an exchange of gunfire in Triunfo de la Cruz three days earlier, but, in the absence of evidence against him, he was not charged. The radio station, however, decided to temporarily suspend broadcasting for fear of further reprisals.

The special rapporteurs on freedom of expression of the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have voiced concern about the mounting violence against community media in Honduras and have called on the government to comply with its international obligations regarding human rights and freedom of expression, including the duty to protect the practice of journalism by community media, which are currently fulfilling a key role in social debate by reporting on news that other media deliberately omit.

The mayor of Tela, David Zacaro Morlachi, and the other municipal authorities must be held to account in the courts for any further incidents that may prevent Radio Faluma Bimetu from operating normally.

Click here to watch a video about Radio Faluma Bimetu

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