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Journalist assaulted by National Police officers

(C-Libre/IFEX) - At about 9:35 p.m. on 23 December 2011, as journalist Leonel Espinoza was driving in the San José de la Peña neighbourhood of the capital, Tegucigalpa, he was intercepted by two National Police officers on a motorcycle, who directed him to pull over. As the area where he was directed to pull over was isolated and dark, and Espinoza did not trust the situation, he decided to try to continue on to get to an area that was better lit. The officers, however, prevented him from doing so at gun point. They then forced him out of his vehicle, at which point the journalist began to run while calling out for help.

When residents of the area came out to help him the officers took hold of and tightly handcuffed him, while removing his shoes. They told the people who had gathered to see what was happening that Espinoza was being detained because his vehicle did not have licence plates, which the journalist said was explained by the fact that he had a permit from the Revenue Department that was about to expire in January 2012. Finally, about an hour after the incident began, the officers removed the handcuffs, set the journalist free and left the area.

According to Espinoza, in the last two months his journalism work has focused on topics such as cleansing within the ranks of the National Police force, attacked on media outlets and journalists, impunity in cases of murdered journalists and the assassination of the son of the Autonomous University of Honduras's (UNAH) rector by members of the National Police force.

Espinoza said the government is implementing a strategy of repression against journalists and that he will hold the police responsible should anything happen to him or his family. After the incident took place, he went to the United States' Embassy to ask for protection. He also filed a complaint with the Criminal Investigations Department and subjected himself to a forensic exam in order to have a record of the police officers' actions. He said that he fears for his life and that of his family members.

Please note that this is an abridged translation.

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