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Members of presidential guard, police suppress journalists' protest; two members of C-Libre assaulted

C-Libre member Cesar Villeda assisting his colleague Tirzia Gáleas, who is suffering from the after-effects of tear-gas inhalation
C-Libre member Cesar Villeda assisting his colleague Tirzia Gáleas, who is suffering from the after-effects of tear-gas inhalation


(C-Libre/IFEX) - Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 13 December 2011 - Members of the Presidential Guard and police officers used clubs and tear gas to suppress a protest by more than 50 journalists, most of them women, held in front of the Presidential Palace. The peaceful protest was calling for justice in the cases of 24 journalists who have been assassinated since 2003 and the ongoing attacks on free expression. The most recent case was that of journalist Luz Marina Paz Villalobos, who was killed on 6 December 2011.

The journalists, members of the collective "Periodistas por la Vida y la Libertad de Expresión" ("Journalists for Life and Freedom of Expression"), held a march on the morning of 13 December 2011, beginning from the grounds of the Francisco Morazán University to the Presidential Palace.

When they arrived at the Presidential Palace, they found the place surrounded by fences and guarded by military and police officers who began to assault them with their clubs, subsequently also launching three tear gas bombs.

A number of media outlets covering the event recorded the attacks on the protesters. The demonstrators lay on the ground in protest of their mistreatment by the security guards.

Two members of C-Libre, Tirzia Gáleas y Cesar Villeda, who were at the demonstration as observers, were also assaulted. Gáleas was punched in the face by a soldier who charged at her with his anti-riot shield. When Villeda tried to assist his colleague, he was also targeted.

Gáleas explained that they were there as human rights defenders to observe events and ensure that the safety of the journalists who were peacefully protesting would be said safeguarded. She said she was lucky the soldier was not able to hit her with his club and lamented the fact that the police and military did not respect their right to free expression.

Villeda noted that later on, another soldier who was standing behind the security barrier tried to intimidate him and photographed him a number of times.

C-Libre notes that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that journalists are not harmed. It also calls on the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa to provide an explanation for the barbaric behavior of the security forces and their treatment of the organisation's members.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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    "We are deeply troubled by the murder of journalist Luz Marina Paz Villalobos. Honduran journalists continue to be killed with impunity, and the government's failure to guarantee minimal safety is fostering a climate of lawlessness that is seriously restricting the work of the press," said CPJ.

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