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Honduras - World Report 2009

100 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index

-  Area: 112,090 sq km
-  Population: 7,700,000
-  Language: Spanish
-  Head of State: Manuel Zelaya, since January 2006

A high level of violent crime affecting the entire population is the main underlying factor in recent murders of journalists. The state of the president’s relations with much of the press is appalling.

Two of the four journalists killed since 2007 worked for the privately-owned national radio station Radio Cadena Voces (RCV), which tends to be quite scathing about President Manuel Zelaya. Criticised for his frequent trips abroad and his attempts to control the press, Zelaya has terrible relation with most of the media especially RCV. “If I were Hugo Chávez, I would have had that station closed down a long time ago,” he said, referring to Venezuela’s Radio Caracas Televisión.

Nonetheless, there are no grounds for blaming the president for any of the tragedies that have befallen RCV. The still unsolved murder of its satirical journalist Carlos Salgado in October 2007 was followed a month later by RCV manager Dagoberto Rodríguez’s flight into exile. Then RCV regional correspondent Rafael Munguía was gunned down in early 2009. There is a terrifying level of violent crime in Honduras, in which murders by youth gangs called “maras” (which also plague Guatemala and El Salvador) vie with extra-judicial executions.

The only positive development has been on the judicial front. In late 2007, courts dismissed a number of prosecutions against journalists on charges of defamation, which is still punishable by three to ten years in prison, while a bill to decriminalise defamation was submitted to parliament. So far, Honduras has only decriminalised “insult”. At the same time, it has not yet passed any legislation on access to public information although neighbouring countries are in the process of doing this.

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