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Another round of violence against the media post-coup

Hondurans continue to protest the 28 June coup
Hondurans continue to protest the 28 June coup

Indymedia Honduras

Nearly two months after Honduras's left-leaning president Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped from the presidential palace and expelled from the country, journalists and activists continue to pay the price, say the Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and other IFEX members.

Police and military officers once again attacked journalists and camera operators on 12 August as they were covering a protest in Tegucigalpa against the coup, reports C-Libre.

Richard Esmith Cazula, a camera operator for Canal 36, was hit and his camera was ruined. "I was filming the protest by resistance supporters when a commando unit and military officers hit my right leg with a baton and then struck my video camera," he told C-Libre.

Telesur journalist Madelin García reported to C-Libre that a high-ranking police officer threatened her and warned her not to publish or photograph anything."He said that it was the journalists' fault that the country was in its current state," she said.

In a separate incident, Gustavo Cardoza, a reporter for the Jesuit-run radio station Radio Progreso, was attacked by half a dozen police officers while covering the eviction of Zelaya supporters from their housing in Choloma in the northeast on 14 August, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Other journalists have complained that they have suffered physical violence, been arrested without cause, had their equipment confiscated and been denied access to officials since the 28 June coup.

Coup opponents have also been behind some of the attacks. On 15 August unidentified assailants, alleged to be opposition activists, hurled five Molotov cocktails at the building of "El Heraldo" newspaper, a known supporter of de facto President Roberto Micheletti, causing damage to the structure. According to C-Libre, four other media outlets have suffered bomb attacks.

Meanwhile, the day before, heavily-armed masked men set fire to a "La Tribuna" van as it was distributing copies of the pro-Micheletti paper, says IAPA.

"The de facto government is reaping what it sowed when it launched a war on the media at the time of the coup," said RSF. RSF is also calling on opposition groups to refrain from committing "physical violence against media that back the de facto government or the employees of these media."

Earlier this month, members of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - Latin America and the Caribbean (AMARC-ALC) office went on an international mission in conjunction with the UN Special Rapporteur on free expression, Frank La Rue, to evaluate first-hand the situation of community media and other social movements post-coup.

"We think that it is urgent to let the world know that Hondurans are being stripped of their rights to communication and freedom of expression by the authorities," AMARC-ALC president María Pía Matta told Zelaya when presenting him with their findings.

"This situation is being further aggravated by the complicity of the large media outlets who are working for the interests of the illegitimate government," she added.

Zelaya said he would make sure that the AMARC-ALC report was submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

According to an op-ed in the "Guardian", although official international condemnation has been almost universal, barely a finger has been lifted outside Latin America to restore the elected Honduran leadership.

Much of this is to do with the U.S.'s refusal to suspend military aid and impose sanctions, the op-ed argues, because of the close links between Honduras and the U.S. military, state and corporate interests.

Journalists and civil society representatives from Honduras were invited to a meeting in July in Guatemala City, where ARTICLE 19 and other rights groups based in Central America launched the first ever platform of action for strengthening freedom of expression in the region. The platform calls for coordinated action around local initiatives, the promotion of legal reform, and mechanisms to report and condemn free expression violations.

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