Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the fate of Aníbal Barrow (picture), a journalist who was kidnapped in the northern city of San Pedro Sula on 24 June, four days ahead of the anniversary tomorrow of the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
Barrow, 58, was travelling in a pickup with members of his family on the afternoon of 24 June when they were stopped by several unidentified individuals, who made Barrow’s relatives get out and then drove off in the pickup with Barrow inside.
The vehicle was founded later that evening in the city’s Villanueva district with traces of blood inside the cabin, a bullet hole in the passenger side window, but no sign of Barrow, who has been the subject of a police search for the past three days.
Barrow, who is also an economics professor at the National Autonomous University of Honduras at Valle de Sula, hosts a news programme called “Aníbal Barrow and nothing else” that is broadcast every morning from Monday to Friday on Globo TV.
His guest on the programme on the morning of the day he was abducted was Juan Barahona, a supporter of the Freedom and Reform Party – a left-wing party led by Zelaya - and member of the National Front for Popular Resistance, which was created in response to the June 2009 coup.
Constant violations of fundamental freedoms for past four years
Human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom to impart and receive news and information, have been constantly flouted in Honduras ever since the coup.
Already notorious for its crime level, Honduras has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalist, human rights defenders, civil society activists and union representatives who provide information about the country’s problems.
Reporters Without Borders has counted 26 murders of journalists in the past four years, eight of which were directly linked to the victim’s work. Most of these journalists had expressed their disagreement with the coup.
Several journalists have narrowly survived recent armed attacks. They include Antonio Quintero Calona of Honduras TV on 12 June in Tegucigalpa, José Ramón Maldonado and Daniel Sánchez of Canal Litoral Atlántico on 20 May in La Ceiba and Geyby Arriaga of Revista Imagen on 15 May in San Pedro Sula. Almost all this violence has gone unpunished.
There have been many cases of media critical of the coup being censored or sabotaged and several have been forced to close. Community media, in particular, have been targeted – and persecuted by the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) – because of their critical coverage of corruption and the crackdown on labour representatives.
Growing concern four months ahead of elections
Some journalists have fled the country after being the targets of violence or threats. They include Dina Meza, a journalist and human rights defender who left for four months and finally returned in May (see video below).
When Meza visited Reporters Without Borders headquarters in Paris on 24 April, she shared her concern about the situation in Honduras ahead of the general elections scheduled for 10 November.
“As we approach November, it will get more and more dangerous for journalists and the human rights crisis will be accentuated,” she said, adding that for this reason the international community must keep its attention focused on Honduras.
“Four years after the coup, restoration of the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information, are more necessary than ever,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“It is time that President Porfirio Lobo Sosa kept the promises he made in Geneva in 2010, when he said Honduras would respect the UN’s recommendations on the right to freedom of expression. These promises have been ignored. The absence of any effort on the part of the authorities would endanger the democratic process and undermine the credibility of November’s general elections.”