TEGUCIGALPA - The assassination of journalist Luis Arturo Mondragon brings the number of media professionals killed this year in Honduras to nine, making it the most unsafe country for journalists.
Mondragon, who was news director for Channel 19 in the city of El Paraíso, was shot dead last night as he was sitting with his son on the sidewalk outside his house, minutes after his program.
He had received death threats for exposing corrupt local and national officials.
The media has been one of the sectors most affected since the June 28 coup, with over 300 attacks reported, including assassination, abuse, intimidation, censorship, and the shutdown of news agencies.
The nine journalists killed to date this year belonged to different news media in different regions, and the majority had used their programs to denounce human rights violations and cases of corruption or drug trafficking.
According to Honduran news reports, Mondragon supported the coup. This lends itself to a preferred "fair and balanced" narrative in English language media, that downplays the targeting of journalists who opposed the coup.
Unlike other English language coverage, the Inside Costa Rica story correctly notes that the majority of journalists killed have been opposed to the coup.
The AP story is more typical of English language coverage of the dire situation for Honduran journalists. It includes the now-standard oversimplification about the case of Karol Cabrera, whose daughter was shot in an apparent soccer gang incident last year, and whose colleague Joseph Ochoa was shot in an incident that Cabrera claims was intended to target her. In the latter case, the parents of the murdered colleague claim Cabrera actually arranged the attack to eliminate competition from her son. But that does not stop the AP from presenting Cabrera as a political exile targeted in both incidents.
More perniciously, the AP story, reported from Tegucigalpa by Freddy Cuevas, continues a pattern of police reframing of each of these incidents as personal, stemming from a general climate of lawlessness. According to a police representative, Mondragon was accused of sexual assault and stealing cattle, possible motives they are investigating.
Also typical of this kind of reporting, which obscures the real surge in killings due to the targeting of anti-coup journalists, the reporter adopts a long time frame that reaches back before the coup to conclude that "more than 50 lawyers, politicians, businessmen, and journalists have been killed in the last two years."
But it is only after the coup d'Etat that the spike in deaths of journalists has occurred, with seven since March alone according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Unlike the Honduran Police, the CPJ points to Mondragon's history of reporting about local "government corruption, environmental issues, and crime" as possible motives.
The majority of the targets of the attacks this year have not been people like Cabrera or Mondragon, who were in favor of the coup d'Etat. They have been people like José Bayardo Mairena, Manuel Juarez, and Nahum Palacios, none named in the AP story, who were reporting on the Aguan conflict. Palacios, in particular, was targeted with threats after the coup for his vocal opposition to it.