Friday, November 18, 2011

New Police Voice

After only two months in the position, Silvio Inestroza has been removed from the position as Police spokesperson. Replacing him is Héctor Iván Mejia, former police chief of San Pedro Sula. Inestroza was appointed to head the public relations department of the Police when Pompeyo Bonilla took over as Security Minister.

So who is the new head of public relations, the voice of the National Police in Honduras?

Hector Ivan Mejia last held this job as head of public relations of the National Police during the 2009 coup. When a video surfaced at CNN showing troops shooting out the tires of buses filled with protesters on their way to Tegucigalpa to protest the coup and forcible exile of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales, Mejia told CNN
"Protesters will be arrested for vandalistic acts but they will not simply be stopped on their way to protests"
as if the video didn't exist showing exactly that happening.

In an August 2008 essay on the media and the Police posted to a website, Mejia had described his vision of how the media should depict violence in Honduras. He asserted that the Honduran media have for too long reveled in the sensationalism of it, and used it to sell newspapers. In a section on how the media should act, he wrote:
- In these circumstances (the media depiction of violence in Honduras) it is necessary to establish the undeniable necessity to establish a social control that establishes what we should communicate, and how we should communicate.

- Coverage of criminal activities should be the object of rigorous, contextualized reporting.

- Citizens have the right to be informed, but the police and judicial procedures should be respected.

- You cannot be neutral to those who threaten the safety of the population.

- The media should play an active role in the defense of democracy, avoiding giving extreme significance to those aspects of violence that put the system of liberties in danger or at risk. They should establish different treatments between those who violate the legal and social norms, and those that respect them.
Mejia concluded that the press must properly contextualize all criminal acts, making clear in their reporting the socially important context, so that people are not led to the wrong conclusions. The press, for Mejia, should be a force for forming public opinion, in this case, against violence.

The decision to bring Héctor Iván Mejia back is curious. Just two months ago he was head of the San Pedro police department. When Pompeyo Bonilla assumed the Security Minister's job, Mejia was removed from that post, as were several other prominent police commanders.

While commander in San Pedro, Mejia was in charge of the botched investigation into the shooting of 18 workers in a shoe factory in September, 2010, where his police failed to collect the shell casings as evidence from the factory.

At the time, Mejia told CNN that the factory was in a neighborhood where drug trafficking proliferated, and that soon became the official "explanation" for the killings. He told the BBC at the same time:
"Apparently the murder was carried out as part of a turf battle between small-scale drug gangs, given that the neighbourhood has conflicts because of the presence of gang members."
After that, the crime was never investigated.

A few days later he ordered the San Pedro police to put down a peaceful demonstration by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular in the center of San Pedro.

He dismissed Sandra Ponce's investigation of the Police shooting of alleged gang members in 2010 in Colonia Planeta, an outer barrio of San Pedro, as "unfair" and declined to present the firearms used by the police officers involved for forensic analysis, according to a UNHCR report.

Also in 2010, when a sixth reporter, television anchor Jorge Alberto Orellana, was killed in San Pedro, it was Hector Ivan Mejia, as chief of the San Pedro police, who floated the idea that he was killed for personal reasons, not as part of a systematic intimidation of journalists in Honduras. Again this became the official explanation without further investigation.

This year, when Congressmember Marvin Ponce said that a significant portion of the National Police were linked to organized crime, Hector Ivan Mejia dismissed the comments.

Quite a choice as official voice of the national police.

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