According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, for several
years Honduras has been classified as one of the most violent
countries in the world not in a state of war, with a rate of 90.4
murders per 100,000 people. Levels of impunity remain high,
with perpetrators of violent crimes rarely brought to justice.
These figures impact significantly on the ability of all Hondurans
to exercise their basic human rights, and have led to Honduras
being included for the past five years as a country of concern
in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
One of the most serious concerns is around restrictions on
freedom of expression. During 2014, both Reporters Without
Borders and Freedom House categorised Honduras as “not free”.
Both organisations said that journalists are subjected to direct
and public threats of death and torture, criminalisation, bans
on practising their profession, and indirect censorship through
restrictions on access to media. Statistics show that, since 2009,
more than 40 journalists have been killed.
The British Embassy in Guatemala City, which is also
responsible for developing and maintaining relations between
the UK and Honduras, maintains regular contact with freedom
of expression organisations, journalists, and public officials
in Honduras. We have also encouraged local authorities to
continue investigating attacks on journalists. In October, a PEN
Centre opened in Honduras to provide help for those journalists
and media communicators who have been victims of violence.
The British Embassy provided funding to PEN (a worldwide
association of writers) in support of this initiative. The director of
the centre, Dina Meza, has been subject to threats since 2006
and, despite obtaining special protection measures from the
IACHR in 2013, these threats persisted in 2014. We have also
closely followed the case of Julio Ernesto Alvarado who was
banned from working as a journalist following his report into a
corruption case. Such cases have led journalists to seek a change
in the law to protect their rights to freedom of expression.
The prevalence of violence and threats and the high levels of
impunity have often led journalists to practise a form of selfcensorship.
They work in an environment of fear, which makes it
extremely difficult to conduct proper investigative reporting.
January 2014 saw the start of a new government under President
Juan Orlando Hernández. The new government has shown an
interest in addressing human rights issues and tackling violence,
and there has been a recent reduction in the murder rate to 66
deaths per 100,000 people, according to official figures. The
government has also sought to maintain a close relationship
with the international community as a way to help tackle some
of these issues. One example of this was the first ever visit by
a group of British parliamentarians in November under the
auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The visit allowed
an exchange of views on a wide range of human rights issues
with government officials, NGOs and journalists themselves.
In December, the Honduran government also welcomed and
cooperated fully with a visit from the IACHR.