TV journalist is latest fatal victim of anti-media violence in Honduras
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an impartial investigation into this week’s murder of a young TV journalist in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, and urges President Xiomara Castro’s government to stop sabotaging the national mechanism for protecting journalists, whose work is as essential as ever in Honduras.
“The cold-blooded murder of Edwin Josué Andino and his father cannot and must not be forgotten,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the director of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The Honduran authorities must identify those responsible and bring them to justice, and must under no circumstances neglect any link between Andino’s death and his journalism. President Xiomara Castro’s government also has a duty to guarantee the safety of journalists throughout Honduras, above all by strengthening the national mechanism that is supposed to protect them. However, everything indicates that the new government is trying to sabotage and arbitrarily control this mechanism, endangering its many current and potential beneficiaries.”
The police said the 23-year-old Andino was murdered by two gunmen “wearing uniforms similar to those of the military police,” who went to his home where he lived with his father in Villafranca, a western suburb of Tegucigalpa, on the morning of 10 October. They seized Andino and his father, placed adhesive tape over their mouths, took them out to the street in front of their home, and shot them there, killing them instantly. They then left in a car.
The police said the car used by the gunmen was found a few hours later at an abandoned house. They also said the murder could have been “planned by organised crime.”
Andino was a journalist with La Tribuna TV (LTV), a TV news channel for which he had been working for two years. He had not reported receiving any recent threats linked to his work. HIs traumatised colleagues described him as “honest, hard-working” and said he “wasn't looking for trouble.”
His murder highlights the need to improve protection for journalists in danger in Honduras, especially as various decisions taken by the new government have weakened the mechanism that is supposed to protect journalists, instead of strengthening it.
Endangered mechanism for protecting journalists
RSF’s Latin America bureau is extremely concerned about the ongoing dismantling of the National Protection System (SNP), the mechanism created in Honduras in 2015 to protect journalists, human rights defenders and judges when they are in danger. It was set up as an offshoot of the human rights ministry (SEDH).
RSF reported in August that human rights minister Natalie Roque had fired more than two thirds of the SNP’s technical staff, almost completely paralysing the protection services it is supposed to provide. Some of the vacancies have since been filled, but by untrained personnel. The SEDH’s arbitrary dismissals have also affected the functioning of the National Protection Council (CNP), the deliberative body tasked with overseeing, monitoring, supporting and evaluating the SNP.
Concern is now focused on the election of new CNP members after the SEDH, during the weekend of 1-2 October, announced that it was convening a general assembly to elect new members, although it is not empowered to do this. Many civil society organisations and the Honduran Human Rights Commission CONADEH) have denounced the move as illegal and unconstitutional and are calling for this general assembly to be cancelled.
RSF supports their call and insists on the need for a general assembly to be organised in accordance with the legally established procedures, which include ensuring a strong civil society participation. RSF has contacted the SEDH about its interference, but the SEDH has so far declined to answer our questions.
One of Latin America’s most dangerous countries
Xiomara Castro’s installation as president in January had prompted hopes that the SNP would be strengthened, but the opposite is now happening. An unprecedented report published by RSF in February on the mechanisms for protecting journalists in four Latin American countries – Honduras, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico – highlighted the SNP’s slowness to adopt measures, its shortcomings, and its lack of human and financial resources, and but offered a series of recommendations for making it more effective.
Honduras is one of Latin America’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Those working for opposition media or community media are often subjected to harassment and intimidation campaigns, death threats and physical violence, and some are forced to flee abroad. The security forces, especially the military police and army, are responsible for most of the abuses and violence against the media. At least one journalist – Pablo Isabel Hernández Rivera on 9 January – has been murdered in a direct connection with their work in 2022.