WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Fear.
It’s what Honduran journalist Luis Galdámez and his family live with every day.
“The threats are constant, the persecution is constant,” Galdámez said with panic in his voice as he walked the streets in Tegucigalpa to cover a story for his show “Seeking the Truth” (Tras la Verdad).
The radio and television program is known for being critical of the government and for its reporting on human rights abuse and corruption.
“There is little guarantee of safety for these journalists,”
The six bullets fired at him and his son as they stood near the front door of their home in the nation’s capital on Sept. 14, 2010 remain fresh in his memory.
“We are all armed at my house now. We are trying to protect ourselves the best we can, but we’re living in a state of anxiety,” he said.
Nobody has been arrested in connection with the attack.
Galdámez, 43, said authorities told him they have leads, but little else.
“I asked them to give me more details of the attackers but they refuse to comment,” Galdámez said. “I don’t believe they have much on the case.”
On Feb. 20, officials from the Ministry of Security, the institution in charge of maintaining public order, met with Galdámez, offering him protection at his home and at the TV station.
“I explained to them that that’s not enough,” he said. “All day I’m out and about doing my job as a journalist, but they told me they couldn’t offer any more protection than what was originally offered.”
Galdámez is not only fearing for his life, but also mourning the death of a colleague and friend.
Henry Suazo, a correspondent for Tegucigalpa-based Radio HRN and news anchor for Cablevisión del Atlántico, was shot twice in the head on Dec. 28, 2010.
According to police reports, Suazo, 32, was taking his usual route to work on his motorcycle around 8 a.m. As he slowed down to avoid hitting pot holes, a man on a bicycle shot him at point-blank range.
“Henry was a friend; he was a man who went after the truth,” Galdámez said. “He constantly brought to light businessmen or politicians who were doing wrong.”
Neighbors immediately took Suazo to a nearby medical clinic in the Mario Ayala residential development in San Juan Pueblo in the northern department of Atlántida.
But he didn’t arrive alive.
He’s survived by his wife and four children.
Suazo had announced several times on his news program that he was receiving death threat calls and text messages that read “This is your last day, dog” and “We are going to kill you,” according to Honduran daily La Tribuna.
Senior Americas Program Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists Carlos Lauría said. “Those who report on these topics suffer the consequences and the state fails to bring justice, leaving the press vulnerable.”
The Honduran government ruled out any possibility of the killings’ having a political connection.
But officials are concerned.
Honduras is considered the third-most dangerous country for journalists, according to the International Press Institute (IPI). IPI is a global organization of editors, media executives and journalists dedicated to protecting members of the media and upholding freedom of the press.
IPI’s “Death Watch,” a list of journalists and members of the media who were targeted because of their profession, documented 92 murders worldwide in 2010. Pakistan, with 15, led the list, followed by Mexico (12) and Honduras (10). No other country had more than six.
In Honduras, two suspects have been arrested in connection with at least one of the 10 homicides, but just one suspect is still undergoing the judicial process. The other suspect was freed due to a lack of evidence.
Two other suspects, however, have been identified as persons of interest by authorities.
In Suazo’s case, an arrest warrant has been issued for a person of interest after several witnesses testified, Director of Public Prosecutions Danelia Ferrera Turcios told Infosurhoy.com via email.
“Presently we are working with the secretary of security in investigating the murder of journalists Nicolás Jesús Asfura and Nahum Palacios,” Ferrera said. “We have been working these cases in an efficient manner and believe we will obtain positive results in a short period of time.”
President Porfirio Lobo told officials to conduct thorough investigations into the killings of journalists, María Guillén, the minister of the interior, said during an interview with the Honduran daily El Heraldo.
“This is a topic of great concern and the president has been in contact [with police] about these situations,” Guillén said. “In the majority of the cases investigated, there is no political linkage, but the important thing is what the President said, that [cases] are investigated to the end because the government will not allow impunity.”
In 2005, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated Honduras is home to 36,000 gang members.
Honduras’ two largest gangs are the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Mara 18.
Many national and international human rights organizations have condemned the attacks and are reaching out to the Honduran government, pleading for it to stop the killings.
“We are living in an environment full of terror and fear in Honduras, but what can we do? Where will I go?” Galdámez said. “I don’t have any alternatives.”