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Honduras12 May 2006

Radio journalist flees to US after being threatened by state phone company official

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the use of threats and violence by the deputy director of the state telephone company against radio journalist Octavio Carvajal, who left yesterday on a three-week trip abroad to avoid further reprisals. Carvajal presents two programmes, “Zonas de Debates” and “Más que Noticias,” for radio STC Noticia.

“We firmly condemn the attitude of certain officials who abuse their positions to try to cow the press or deter journalists who display too much curiosity,” the organisation said. “We call on the authorities to act on the complaint filed by Carvajal, as a proper investigation would set an example for the future.”

According to the Honduran Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre), Carvajal was attacked as he left his home on 8 May by Marcelo Chimirri, the deputy director of the state telephone company Hondutel, who was waiting outside with two bodyguards.

Chimirri reportedly grabbed Carvajal by the throat, threatened him and told him to shut up. He then asked him what problem he had with him. “I am not intimidating you because I am not someone who makes threats - I act and I execute,” he said, adding, “the president’s office is irritated by all the questions you have been asking.” He also insulted and threatened Carvajal’s family.

Carvajal said he attributed the threats in part to his criticism of Chimirri during his programmes, but also to the embarrassing questions he has been asking about negotiations being conducted by Chimirri’s superior, Hondutel director Jacobo Regalado, for the construction of a dam on the River Lempa, which forms the border with El Salvador. The proposed El Tigre dam would meet 70 per cent of El Salvador’s energy needs.

Carvajal’s appeals during the past two weeks for more transparency and for more information about the project prompted phone calls from the president’s office advising him to moderate his tone if he wanted to receive a state advertising contract. These threats had no effect as Carvajal does not need state advertising to finance his programmes. He carried on criticising the negotiations and questioning the role being played by Regalado and Chimirri.

After Chimirri’s attack, Carvajal filed a complaint with a court for general matters whose judge, Yuri Moreno, opened an investigation. For reasons of security, Carvajal said he was taking a 20-day trip to the United States.

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