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Police try to hush up shooting of Honduran radio station’s president

La Voz de Zacate Grande, a community radio station based on the southern island of Zacate Grande, has again been the target of persecution for siding with local peasant groups in their land disputes with biofuel manufacturer Miguel Facussé Barjum, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

In the latest aggression, Franklin Meléndez, the president of the board that oversees the station, was shot in the leg on March 13 by two critics of its editorial policies. The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) said Meléndez was hospitalised for the gunshot wound to his leg and was in a stable condition. The police and judicial authorities have taken no action in response to the shooting, although the identity of the assailants is known, and neither Meléndez nor the staff of La Voz de Zacate Grande have been given any protection. Worse still, the police called the station and asked it “not to make a fuss.”

“Military occupation, a ridiculous control order on two of its correspondents, repeated acts of intimidation and now a shooting that is deliberately left unpunished,” RSF said. “The failure of the authorities to act is clearly the result of bias rather than negligence. They never acted on the station’s complaint against Miguel Facussé and continue to defend his interests in violation of fundamental freedoms including media freedom.”

It added: “Such a flagrant breach of constitutional principles demands an urgent reaction from the government in Tegucigalpa and the highest judicial bodies. Facussé and his allies must be made to answer publicly for this persecution of a rural community and its radio station.”

Meléndez was with two of the station’s reporters and the representative of a recent international human rights observation mission when two men, Jorge Sánchez and Porfirio Medina, accosted him and criticised his support for the attempts by peasant groups to recover land from Facussé. Sánchez made a death threat then Medina pulled out a gun and shot him. Relatives of Medina subsequently called the station several times and threatened its staff.

Community radio stations are very exposed to the possibility of reprisals by local despots, who often have support in high places. The political violence that followed the June 2009 coup d’état increased the dangers.

Date posted: March 17, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 120