How to read an LA Times article on Honduras

For a more thorough, better-written and explained, and less snarky reaction to the LA Times article, see the ever-fabulous Honduras Culture & Politics blog.

In Honduras, journalist slayings raise alarm okay, not a bad start

Five journalists have been killed in March. The violence underscores the continued instability of Honduras nine months after a coup that led to the election of a president in November. A coup that led to the election of a president in November??? Um, weird way to put it, but I suppose it's true in a sense...

By Alex Renderos and Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times

March 31, 2010

Reporting from Mexico City and San Salvador ???

Nine months after a military-led coup plunged Honduras into political turmoil, human rights groups are denouncing what they see as an alarming spate of attacks on journalists, including the killings of five in March alone. so far, so good

No one has been arrested in the slayings, and speculation on motives has run the gamut. The violence illustrates the depth to which Honduras remains unsettled and on edge, even after a new president was elected in November and installed in January amid promises to heal national divisions. Actually, speculation hasn't run any gamut. There's a clear-cut unified understanding that these journalists were killed for their opposition to the coup and/or their critical reporting on the de facto government. And this isn't a "depth" of "unsettledness"—this is targeted assassination. Finally, really? Is that the best you can do on the fraudulent election and "heal national divisions" tripe, as if it were over something as petty as soccer? Oh, of course...

International free-press organizations called on President Porfirio Lobo to fully investigate the killings and put an end to them. ...while the golpista journalists syndicate stayed mum.

"These attacks are seriously restricting freedom of expression and undermine citizens' right to be informed on issues of public interest," Carlos Lauria of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement. He called the violence "unprecedented." true.

The five journalists killed this month were victims of drive-by shootings in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, and other cities. Some were known to be sympathetic to ousted President Manuel Zelaya; others had no public political leanings. AAAAARGH! Can we stop with the Zelaya sympathizer bullshit? The media insists on using this trope, merely to play into anti-Chavez hype, even now that Zelaya is long out of the picture. And these weren't "drive-by shootings." Drive-by shootings are random killings that happen when you drive through a neighborhood of thugs (according to common U.S. understandings anyway). These were TARGETED ASSASSINATIONS. Get it? Premeditated murders. Read the reports. Finally, on this one, there is no such thing in Honduras as "no public political leanings." Not anymore.

Independent of politics, Honduras has a high homicide rate, and several of the journalists worked in parts of Honduras rife with drug-trafficking and smuggling rings. Yep. The old "Honduras has a culture of crime" bit. Can't forget this classic. It's probably just a coincidence that FIVE journalists were specifically targeted for assassination in one month. Or maybe they were involved in the drug rings themselves. Go ahead, say it, LA Times.

Jose Bayardo Mairena, a reporter for the Excelsior radio station, and Manuel Juarez, who worked for Super 10 radio, were traveling Friday in Olancho province, about 75 miles north of Tegucigalpa, when gunmen pulled up alongside their car and shot them, their colleagues said. Right, you see. Drive-by shooting? No, targeted assassination.

Other journalists were killed in similar shootings on March 1, 11 and 14. One of the victims, Joseph Hernandez Ochoa, was killed as he drove with colleague Karol Cabrera, a TV news host known for her support of the coup. She was injured. Three months earlier, attackers shot at Cabrera's car, killing her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. Cabrera says she has received numerous death threats. No mention of the fact that Ochoa's family claims to have evidence that Cabrera herself ordered the attack on Ochoa, with whom she had recently feigned reconciliation, or that the pro-coup police investigation unit forced an end to Cabrera's incessant braying about the resistance murdering her daughter, with irrefutable proof that the poor girl (who ran with a soccer gang) had been killed by a rival soccer gang.

"I think what we are seeing with these murders is that there are still dark forces at work," Leo Valladares, a law professor who served as Honduras' human rights ombudsman for a decade, said in a telephone interview from Tegucigalpa. Leo Valladares IS a dark force. He may at one time have authored a report on 1980s abuses, but his actions have consistently supported the coup. He supported the elections as an official observer, threatened those who would boycott them, calling them common criminals, and has said next to nothing about human rights abuses since the coup. "Dark forces" my ass. This was golpistas sending a warning to the resistance. Call a spade a spade, Leo.

He noted that both the extreme right, long the dominant power in Honduras, and the extreme left would have reasons for sowing fear. Many on the right oppose any effort by the Lobo government to sustain dialogue with Zelaya supporters and other dissidents. Many on the left refuse to recognize Lobo because he was elected while a repressive de facto government was in charge and, they maintain, whitewashed the coup. True, with regards to the extreme right. But that "extreme" left he's talking about is actually a majority of Hondurans, calling for extremisms like democratic process, justice, a secular state, etc... Oh, and while it may be fun to create imaginary scenarios of violence, only one side, in point of fact, has used violence to date.

Jose Osman Lopez, president of the Committee for Free Expression in Honduras, said the killings of the journalists are part of a wider deterioration in human rights that has especially hurt opponents of the coup and belied talk of reconciliation. Poorly worded, but if I understand it correctly, okay.