Honduran journalist Ricardo Ellner accuses Juan Hernandez’s dictatorship in the name of freedom. Because Journalism also serves to crumble the oblivion and the murderous silence.
“Free journalism can be either good or bad,
But without freedom, journalism can only be bad”
By: Andrés Figueroa Cornejo / Source: Rebelion.org / October 12, 2015
How is the Media concentration expressed in Honduras?
Ricardo Ellner: Media ownership is distributed among various entrepreneurs. It is an oligopoly where every media outlet represents the same oligarchic interests. The mainstream journals are Tiempo (whose owners are the Zionist Rosenthal family. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, Jaime Rosenthal is one of the 100 most powerful Central American entrepreneurs and millionaires), and La Prensa and El Heraldo, which belong to Jorge Canahuati Larach. Both entrepreneurs have also monopolized the radio news and television landscape.
Aside from being a banker, Rosenthal also owns the highly watched TV Channel 11, advertising agencies and news agencies and monopolizes the supply of digital services. Meanwhile, Canahuati also owns magazines, television channels, radio stations and many advertising agencies. In spite of competing with each other, they both follow the current government’s course, and vice versa. Additionally, newspaper La Tribuna is owned by the former liberal President Carlos Flores.
On the other hand, there is a station, Globo Radio and Globo TV , which grew and was strengthened during the coup of June 28, 2009. Its news director is Gabriel Romero Ellner, who has maintained a frontal position against the government. He is a skillful and experienced communicator who has courageously revealed the corruption of the dictatorship.Thanks to the reports of his media outlets, the people from Honduras knew that the Head of the Executive had stolen pension savings of workers to fund his campaign of USD 350 million. Because of the research and denounces that journalists like Ellner make, they are persecuted politically.
What kind of persecution do they suffer?
R. E.: Gabriel Romero is followed almost every day by a car without license plates. They also tried to assassinate him in an ambush as he entered the radio at five in the morning. He miraculously shook off that attack. And now the power wants to imprison him because he denounced that the wife of the General Attorney of Honduras, and also the country’s prosecutor, commits abuses of authority and maintains political deals through her husband. The charge against Gabriel Romero is of defamation, and the law invocated comes, of course, from the dictatorship. According to the penal code, in these cases the process should last at least two years. However, the case against Romero was shortened to four months.
Where are the country’s journalists employed ?
R. E.: They could be employed in some of the groups that I mentioned, or they have to go to an NGO, or to the government’s public relations. That sums up the potential workplaces. The alternative and popular media, with independent information, has been suppressed, and every time one emerges, the police suppresses and destroys it.
Freedom of Expression: towards death or towards self-censorship
What is the situation of freedom of speech, press, and opinion of the Honduran population?
R. E.: The freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, are highly conditional. I think only two paths are possible: one towards death, the other towards self-censorship .
R. E.: Nowadays, social networks play a major role. Because, in what way can you make sure that your voice is not completely severed? So far the dictatorship can not control social media, although now the rulers want to impose a decree to ‘regulate them’. We believe they won’t be able to do this. The only way would be throwing the transnational owners of the social networks out of Honduras.
Is it the practice of journalism the highest risk profession in Honduras?
R. E.: It’s high risk, indeed. Here our exposure to death is direct. We are in the line of fire of local power, the imperialist intervention and institutionalized corruption. The only way in which journalism can be a safe practice, is if you work for power. Instead, the task of journalists who do not support the dictatorship is to rewrite history every day. The same story they have erased from the Academy and from the Media. Then we find that the genuine history of our country is filled with blood, violence, corruption, with oligarchic political games at the expense of our people.
Some of the murders of journalists have been completely manipulated by the government-media allegiance. Alfredo Villatoro’s body was dressed as a military and his death was presented as a crime committed by the left. Of the murder of Erick Martinez, an LGBT activist, they said that it had been for sentimental reasons.
In which context is the struggle for Freedom of Speech framed?
R. E.: Today Honduras remains the most violent and dangerous country of the world. According to the latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the prevention of violence, 2014, there are 88.5 murders per 100 thousand inhabitants. From 2013 to 2015, the National Commissioner for Human Rights reported 85 mass murders. A mass murder is when they kill four or more people in one place. They have left 491 victims in complete impunity. There is not one single judicialized case. So, what does the government do in order to lower the number of deaths misleadingly? They count a single victim for each mass murder. In reality we are talking about a rate of about 20 murders a day.
And what are the main causes of such figures ?
R. E.: Well, an 80% of Hondurans survives under the poverty line. There is lack of work, an extended social inequality; and the drug trafficking activity is impressive, the official Honduras National Party (Partido Nacional de Honduras) is the lead manager of drug trafficking along with the American DEA. We know that the DEA is the main drug trafficker in Latin America, the passage of the epicenter from Colombia to the United States is well known. At the moment, there are many officials of the Honduran State linked to the narco-activity. Such violence is endorsed by the hegemonic media through the “Narco-Novelas”.
What do you mean by Narco-Novelas?
R. E.: They are prime time TV Soap opera, with the highest rating. For example, they tell a story about how drug traffickers in Colombia became powerful, how could they transcend their own borders and got to Mexican territories, or others. They are brought from US and Colombia. They are a true ode to drug and to what these scoundrels do
What about exile?
R. E.: The dictatorship also expelled the population. Our population is of 8.5 million. Since its inception, 35,000 children have left the country by themselves, in order to seek for “the American dream”. And what have they become? Victims of child trafficking. In Mexico they fall into trafficking networks, selling of organs or child prostitution. Overall, more than two million people have left the country to escape misery and political persecution, and in the last five years, half a million. This is because we live in a society where the state has militarized the whole territory, just as it happened before in the 80s. There are no policemen or policewomen, no bureaucrats nor public employees: everything is done directly by the military. And all Honduras is against the militarization of society. The dictator Juan Hernandez proposed that the operational roles of security should be made by the military but lost in the national congress. Even conservatives voted against it. However, the narco-military state continues to unfold and commit murders daily.
What did the Association of Journalists say to the crimes?
R. E.: The Association of Journalists of Honduras does not respond to the interests of the journalists. It is a dome that is always in tune with the current government and seeks its own economic benefit. On the issue of the 58 murders of journalists between 2003 and 2015 so far, the union has never uttered a word about any of them in a press release. Its president, Eduin Romero, is a man with a strong significance in the hegemonic media of the country.
We know the dangers that come with being a journalist in this country, the profession of being communicator can cost us our lives. Now we are talking calmly, but I do not know what can happen to me tomorrow. We are being watched . Our phones are tapped. I was just fired from the Tiempo Journal because I resisted self-censorship: not calling the coup a coup, not saying anything about the Free Party or the National Popular Resistance Front. To get kicked out of a hegemonic media is the minimum punishment for writing the truth under a fascist government, under a dictatorship that is at war against the Honduran people. Idiots. They will never shut us up.