NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

The extinction of journalism in Honduras

Moment of the capture of journalist Romero while he was on his evening news. More than 100 policemen were used to capture him, who entered the radio station building to capture a person who was working in front of a microphone.Photo Daily El Heraldo, 07, 18, 2020

Moment of the capture of journalist Romero while he was on his evening news. More than 100 policemen were used to capture him, who entered the radio station building to capture a person who was working in front of a microphone.

Although some newspaper articles state that Mexico and Syria are the most dangerous countries to be a journalist, I think they have long overlooked how dangerous it is for a journalist to work in the Republic of Honduras, a place that in 2013, during the establishment of a dictatorial regime, the highest global indicators of murders and deaths were reached in a country free of wars. Among those deaths, journalists were perhaps the group that experience the highest number of assassinations, mainly due to their commentary an investigative reporting into and against the dictatorial regime.

Every year the Infoplease[1] organization presents a ranking of the countries where more journalists are murdered while performing their work. Most of these countries are going through conflict, which in some way rationalizes the reason for the death of journalists who were at the time covering what happened on the battlefields. However, in the case of Honduras, there has not been any kind of war since 1969. Yet, they carry the rank of having the highest rate of death in the world.

In an interview with Mr. Hector Amador, who is the News Director of The Globe Group, possibly the strongest opposition news group in Honduras where he conducts the morning and afternoon news program.  He began the interview addressing how difficult it is to practice investigative journalism in Honduras: “In Honduras, journalism is a high-level risk profession,” he said.  “Not only because of the marginalization and boycott that opposition journalists are been facing, but also because of the death threats they normally received, especially from state institutions, including the president of the republic itself. Better said, dictatorship of the republic.”

Amador said that the problem of Honduras to the eyes of the international community is that many of the people killed while exercising communication work were not necessarily journalists, which shows a much lower indicator of the reality of the murders in our country than they really are.

He explained that the deaths of journalists in Honduras have been mainly due to complaints that they have exposed acts of corruption of politicians in high government positions as well as irregularities of business unions and in recent years, attacks against the environment due to business reasons.  Even more, many of those social communicators did not just die during the exercise of their profession, they were first kidnapped and then assassinated or have experienced attacks by hitmen while driving or even been killed by “random bullets” to their heads.

In Honduras, there are other people, not necessarily professional journalists and even non-collegiate journalists but who are also engaged in social communication activity, writers or public relations who have also been assassinated. These people have been excluded from the statistics of assassinations because they didn’t have a degree in journalism even though they had a strong relationship with the management of social communication.

Amador mentioned the existence of one government office whose function is, in theory, to protect journalists. however, they have only provided them with a telephone number so that they can be contacted in case of receiving an attack. Unfortunately, in Honduras, it is very difficult to escape an assassination attempt. When it is happening, at least three heavily armed individuals shoot directly from different angles to the journalist they were paid to disappear.  “When you are getting killed”, he used a sarcastic tone, “it has to be very hardly for a person to remember that someone gave him a telephone number to call and report the attack while he is receiving gunshots.”

In this regard, I commented that I remembered three months ago when I heard of a journalist who was shoot while doing an interview.  Two hitmen on motorcycles began to follow him and shooting him to death. The journalist kept his camera and microphone on throughout the macabre event, recording his cries for help as he expired.  To this event Amador said “By the way, this crime has still not been prosecuted.”

One of the darkest and poorly documented passages in Honduran history was the disappearance of journalists by official order, perhaps the most representative case of this genre is being the capture, imprisonment and subsequent murder of the journalist and social communicator David Romero H. when he served as Director of the newscasts of Radio Globo and Globo Televisión. The journalist Romero dedicated himself to the branch of investigative journalism that for many years, disclosing with ample evidence a series of acts of corruption that involved the current president and of Honduras[2].

Among the acts of corruption that the journalist Romero reported in the different newscasts that he directed are:


  • The financing of the presidential campaign of the current president with the diversion of funds from the Honduran Institute of Social Security for an amount greater than L.4,000 million (equivalent to 300 Million Dollars).
  • The extradition process and judgment for the introduction of drugs into North American territory of Antonio Hernandez, brother of the Honduran president, Juan Hernandez.
  • The systematic diversion of funds by the president’s wife and sister for more than 800 million dollars from different offices, particularly those that handle donations and international funds aid for natural disasters.
  • The link of the president of the republic with the case of his brother, in the role of conspirator in drug trafficking to the USA.
  • The political and secret movements of the ruling party aimed at launching a third illegal reelection of the current president.
  • More recently, participation in the diversion of 50 million Dollars allocated for the purchase of hospitals for the care of COVID-19.

Amador explained how his capture developed in March 2019.  All began after Romero discovered a political trick to achieve the illegitimate presidential reelection. A few weeks later he denounced the hidden links of the the current Honduras’ president with the drug trafficking operation that his brother operated.   A few days later he was irregularly captured and taken to a maximum security prison. He was charged with libel based on an old judgment that he was practically reinstated and sentenced to ten years in jail.

Never had a journalist or anyone else been sentenced in Honduras to such a long sentence for that same “crime”, which was even being eliminated from the new Honduran criminal procedure code. In an unprecedented speedy trial, he was convicted and transferred to a maximum-security prison where he was imprisoned and isolated for almost 16 months[3].

In the first days of June 2020, his wife was notified that Don David Romero was ill and that he would be transferred to a hospital. The transfer took place almost two weeks later, justifying bureaucratic paperwork. He was admitted to a hospital in the capital with symptoms of COVID-19, where he remained for two weeks. He passed away on July 18 due to complications from the virus.

The journalist Amador mentioned that there were several questions raised about this case. For example, how was it possible for him to have been infected if he was in a maximum security cell, without maintaining contact with anyone?  Another unanswered question is why the medical team at the jail took so long to refer him to a hospital.? A medical source told me that the journalist Romero got infected through his food to an excessive viral load of COVID-19 and was not referred to any hospital until it was difficult, if not impossible, to reverse the delicate state of his health.  He finished his questioning himself by saying that clearly this is a case of murder, which like many other cases, will remain in oblivion and impunity.

Unfortunately for Romero, even with the participation of the inter-American court and human rights offices, he was never able to regain his freedom. Another situation against him is that the Honduran judiciary is under the rule of the current dictatorship, so he could not accuse anyone. His file was disappeared and the investigation into his death was diluted in abandonment and impunity as many other.

After closing Mr. Romero’s story with sad voice, Amador recalled one of the first quotes of this interview, “It is dangerous to do journalism in Honduras”.   “In my case, I leave my house at 4 in the morning to be ready for the 5 am news. I use two or three vehicles alternately and I always travel on different routes. Their fear intensified after great journalists such Anibal Barrow and Alfredo Villatoro, both hosts of the 5 am newscasts of other powerful radio stations, were kidnapped and found murdered several weeks later[4]. None of those cases were solved. Both are in the coldest impunity. Although unofficially, the entire journalistic union of the country knows who the intellectual authors of both deaths were.

He also mentioned that the station where he works simply does not receive advertising from the government. “Worse still, the government puts pressure on and threatens private companies that have an advertising contract with its radio station so that they do not make advertising contracts with said radio station. All this causes great pressure against the finances of the radio station.”  He rest for a few seconds and then he continue developing the problematic the radio station where he works is facing. “Many journalists do not want to work here precisely for this reason. We live in a dictatorship disguised as democracy, where the government has managed to suffocate private companies that have the audacity to question or oppose its wishes and demands.” Then, he took a long pause before closing the interview.

A few days later, I was lucky to get a telephone interview with the journalist Merlyn Aplicano, an independent journalist for the news radio “En la Plaza”.  She told me that being an independent journalist is complicated and even dangerous, since it is difficult for them to find a stable work place, mostly due to their nature of opposition to the government and their interest in discovering and publishing acts of corruption, it is difficult for them to get advertising contracts, and even jobs in other areas related to their profession. She worked part-time in an advertising agency and had to leave it since the agency could not be qualified to participate in government tenders. This boycott occurred because she worked in a news program where they attacked the efforts of the government in power.  She had to quit from that agency.

Then, Aplicano expressed that an estimate of 20 journalists have been killed nationwide since 2000, mostly because at some point in their career, they published some of the scandals or corruption acts of the groups that currently occupy the presidential leadership. She also mentioned that even when there has never been a strong political opposition in Honduras, a few journalists have dared to write against the government as it is “popular knowledge” that the typical government response is not prison, but rather the disappearance, hit-and-run or murder of a relative of the journalist.  She closed the interview by saying “it is hard to practice journalism in Honduras.”

In an interview with the journalist Miriam Elvir, Deputy Director of the Committee for Free Expression, known as C-Libre, she explained that Honduras is a country with a combination of a strong degree of impunity, asymmetry of information, a recent dictatorship that controls all the institutions and powers of the state, the country also has an easily corruptible society.  She said it is not easy to work with all those factors against the people who work in journalism.  She mention that the organization where she works keep records not only of murdered journalists but also of other people who are members of the same “ecosystem,” made up of cameramen, photographers, editors, presenters, even other people who have also been murdered while doing some social communication. She mentioned that between 2000 and 2010 a total of 4 to 6 murders of communicators were reported, but, between 2010 and 2020, an estimated 86 journalists and communicators were murdered where more than 95% of these cases are in impunity, or only a few of the material authors of the murders have been captured, but none of the intellectual authors who ordered the murders. Worse still, there is secrecy for the judicial files of murdered social communicators and journalists, where no one has access to them and they justify it by saying it is “by superior order”, contrary to what the laws and legal procedures dictate.  Besides, obtaining justice is more complicated, given that it is speculated there are strong links between the executive branch, the legislative branch and the drug cartels in the country. The president’s brother is awaiting sentence for his ties to drug trafficking in a New York state jail.  And everybody know that in Latin America, drug dealing is a family business.

The journalist Victor Aguilar, who works with the newscast channel 11, a member of the Diario Tiempo group, states (without mentioning the number of the year) that in Honduras more than 70 journalists have been murdered since opposition journalist appeared almost 20 years ago.  He explained that, historically in Honduras, the written radio and televised media have been controlled by a small group of powerful families and business groups in the country that never held open opposition to government irregularities given their direct links, both with the government itself such is the case of former presidents Flores (1996-1999) and Maduro (2000-2004) who both owned newspaper and radio stations.

Aguilar continued explaining that it was at the beginning of the year 2000 when small newscasts began to appear in different cities of the country that focused their attention on creating a government opposition. These groups have found it difficult to expand their coverage, as they have suffered from targeted boycotts from government structures.

Twenty years later, some of them, such as the Globo Group and the Progreso group, have maintained their fierce opposition and investigative journalism. The rest succumbed to the boycott or accepted government bribes and preventions, making them new national potentates in a short time.  He then said “I do not deny that at some point in the journalistic history of Honduras, a country where the legal framework has been systematically weak, some media outlets have abused their power, not only by publishing false news, but also by using extortion. media, for the benefit of a politician member of the families that have historically controlled the country.”

To support what the interviewed journalists expressed about the journalism environment in Honduras, I read an article written by Edwin Funez on November 3, 2019.  Funez writes about the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights when denounced that in Honduras since 2010 more than 81 journalists have been murdered, which places the country as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the exercise of journalism. It also stated that more than 90% of the murders are in a state of impunity, regardless of the participation of having created a protection mechanism journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers, which is made up of government representatives and members of civil society[5]. His findings are consistent with the one claimed by the three journalists I previously interviewed.

With similar topic, an article written by The Daily of Las Américas published in Miami Fla, states in its edition of September 28, 2020, that in Honduras, an estimated 85 journalists and social communicators have been murdered, between 2001 and 2020.  This information is a part of an article where they mention the murder of a journalist from the city of Comayagua, whose complaint to the police that he received life-threatening phone calls but never received the corresponding protection from the government. It is worth mentioning that, like this case, many others remain in impunity since not even government entities or human rights societies provide protective measures against journalists who make this type of requests and complaints.

In conclusion, the exercise of journalism in Honduras is highly risky, not only because of the weakness of the legal apparatus, but also because of the dominance exercised by the current dictatorial regime that controls the country, in all the sectors, institutional, judicial even private sectors.

There are two situations that inhibit the economic and social development in Honduras. First, the information asymmetry, where a group of communicators receive braves to presents a false face of the national reality. And second, the official pressure that is practically eliminating the independent journalist for their efforts to communicate their findings and research.

When the official communicators of Honduras express to the world about the country’s economic growth and potential, more than 100,000 people, entire families in caravans, are living the country trough all the borderlines.  The lack of jobs, the unsafe conditions and treats to their life they confront on daily bases force them to leave their homes. They trust on those independent journalists who accompany them inform the world of the reasons that forced them to leave their home.  They don’t want to be seen as opportunistic by the countries they would like to be received.  Honduran people and the world must be informed of the critical situation they live. A situation which, unfortunately, in recent months has been deteriorated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the passage of two hurricanes in the month of July.


Once periodistas destacados que fueron asesinados en Honduras

mayo 25, 2018Victor Aguilar


Deadliest Countries for Journalists

Updated April 9, 2020 | Infoplease StaffUpdated by an Infoplease Editor on April 9, 2020

Asesinan en Honduras a periodista que había recibido amenazas de muerte. September 28, 2020, Diario Las Americas.  Las Americas Multimedia Group. LLC.

Eduin Funez, OACNUDH:  81 periodistas han sido asesinados en Honduras desd 2001. Noviembre 3, 2019. Diario Tiempo Digital.

Interview with the journalists:

Merlyn Aplicano, del radio noticiero “En La Plaza”

Miriam Elvir, Director Adjunto de la asociación C-Libre.

Hector Amador, Head Director – Radio Globo.

 [1] Infoplease Staff. Deadliest Countries for Journalists

April 9, 2020. Sandbox Networks.

[2] Gilda Silvestrucci. Periodista hondureño David Romero denuncia que fue condenado por revelar corrupción. Junio 2020. Telesur.

[3] Mario Galeas. David Romero asegura que Juan Hernandez y Argueta ordenaron su condena. jan 2019

[4] Honduran radio journalist Alfredo Villatoro kidnapped. 2020 BBC.

[5] Edwin Funez. OACNUDH, 81 periodistas han sido asesinados en Honduras desde 2001. Nov.3, 2019. Diario El tiempo

OACNUDH: 81 periodistas han sido asesinados en Honduras desde 2001