On 24 June 2013, Anibal Barrow, 58, a popular anchor on Globo TV, one of Honduras's largest broadcasters, was pulled out of his car by armed men in the city of San Pedro Sula. His charred, mutilated remains were found on 10 July. Mr Barrow joined the list of 29 journalists assassinated in Honduras since 2009, interrupting a period in which the list of deaths had stabilized.
Savagery in attacks like these has profound effect not only on media community but on Honduran society as a whole. They create a climate of terror where silence becomes part of people’s survival strategy.
The journalist association of Honduras was planning to organize a round table to discuss the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity on 27 June but decided to cancel the activity to support the family of Mr Barrow in search efforts.
A prominent Honduran NGO “Comité por la Libre Expresión” (C-Libre) conducted debates on the UN Plan of Action as scheduled on 28 June in Tegucigalpa, even though C-Libre, too, has been following closely the investigation of Mr Barrow’s murder.
C-Libre gathered 34 media professionals including a journalist from the Globo media group where Mr Barrow worked, media directors, professional associations as well as representatives of the Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights of Honduras, the UN and international community. The debates were focused on analysis of the situation; the rule of law; safety measures and coordination mechanisms.
The round table noted that many Honduran media workers underestimate threats and minimize warning signs, instead of flagging them. In this regard, the round table recommended to develop:
- a database of journalists and social communicators,
- an awareness-raising media campaign on risks that journalists are facing,
- protocols on security and media coverage, as well as mechanisms of self-protection and an “early warning system” for journalists,
- a national platform for dialogue on freedom of expression as well as capacity-building in the area of investigative journalism, professional ethics, etc.
Participants underlined that these actions need the support of the state, civil society, agencies of international cooperation and the United Nations.
Other recommendations referred to on-going legislative initiatives, media ownership and trade union issues that have been causing controversy across media and political spectrum in Honduras. Participants of the round table agreed that differences affected the unity among journalists as regards safety issues.
Polarization of Honduran media prevents it from speaking with one voice against the killings despite the fact that the problem affects professionals across the spectrum.
UNESCO is working with partners at national, regional and international levels to keep the consultation process going about developing a unified and effective national action plan on journalist safety in which all parts of media and society put their differences aside in order to prevent further journalist assassinations from happening.