Violence against reporters covering mine protest in northern Honduras

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Honduran authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists in Tocoa, in the northern department of Colón, who have been threatened and attacked for covering protests at a mine near the village of Guapinol, 10 km outside Tocoa. RSF also condemns attempts to bribe reporters.

Eight journalists were physically attacked by police and soldiers on 27 October while covering the use of force to evict the more 350 environmental activists who had been camped outside the entrance to the mine for the past three months in protest against its activities

The eight journalists were Rigoberto MendozaOsmán Corea, Vitalino Álvarez and Erick Mendoza (Comunicaciones Mendoza),Jhony Castillo (Canal 5), Wenceslao Canales (Canal 29), Donaldo Domínguez and César Obando (Radio Progreso) and Miguel Dubón (Radio Globo).

The occupants of the now-dismantled “resistance camp” accused the mining company, Minera Inversiones Los Pinares, of illegally obtaining a permit to drill in what is a protected ecological area. Sources told RSF that the mining company tried repeatedly to buy the silence of journalists in the region, offering them 4,000 lempiras (about 150 euros) not to cover its activities.

The journalists who refused to be bribed and went to the camp on 27 October to cover the eviction were immediately targeted. Police and soldiers insulted them, used physical violence, fired teargas at them, and confiscated and destroyed equipment.

Stones were thrown at Rigoberto Mendoza while he was filming, and one hit him in the stomach. One of his colleagues found marijuana hidden inside the bag that had been taken from him during the operation.

“We condemn this extremely serious obstruction of the right to inform and call on the judicial authorities to identify and punish those responsible for these violent attacks,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “These reporters are still in great danger and need urgent measures by the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists.”

Independent journalists in Tocoa who refuse to ignore these illegal mining activities continue to be harassed by the police and by the mining company’s security staff, and keep getting anonymous messages containing death threats.

As a result of criticizing a claim by a member of the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) that the eviction was peaceful, Rigoberto Mendoza told RSF that he fears for his life because he is being followed and watched, and receives threats every day.

Honduras is ranked 141st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 08.11.2018