Knight Center
Knight Center


Honduran crime reporting lacks analysis because of fear for journalists’ safety, investigation found

Superficial crime reporting that relies on bloody photos and spread, but lacks any explanation behind such photos, has become a common occurrence among Honduras' media outlets. The Fundación MEPI, a regional investigative journalism project based in Mexico City, says that its content analysis and interviews with reporters and editors have drawn out multiple reasons behind this growing trend: a lack of government-media implemented safety mechanisms to protect journalists, little access to timely official reports by the authorities, and fear of retaliation, if stories display too much context or insight.

Journalists in Honduras, for instance, avoid writing about the activities of organized crime group Los Cachiros and others like it because of the dangers that come with reporting on such subject matters.

Los Cachiros, an organized crime group headed by brothers and former cattle rustlers Javier and Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, which was only known by a handful of Hondurans until recently, allegedly picks political candidates and has close links to local police, according to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Access Control, OFAC.

One newspaper finally came forward and wrote about the Maradiaga brothers and their organization. "We published (the story) because the United States gave us information,” explained without hesitation a local newspaper editor who asked not to be identified in the original article.  “To investigate such matters in this country is very difficult. We can’t take the risk. Also no local authority would provide us with such evidence.”

Mexican criminal organizations like the Zetas, Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, have had a presence in Honduras for a while now. The country has also been plagued with other dangerous groups of organized crime, such as the two Colombian criminal bands, the Rastrojos and the Urabenos, Maras or organized youth gangs like MS13 and Mara 18, and more.

Afflicted with critical levels of institutional corruption and ineffective law enforcement agencies, MEPI notes that "Honduras has become the ideal transport spot for international drug traffickers." With 91 murders per 100 thousand inhabitants, Honduras is now the country with the highest capital murder rate in the world.

"The country also has one of the highest numbers of journalists killed, or attacked, in a country not at war," MEPI wrote.

The problem arises when Hondurans actually pick up a newspaper and go away with very little understanding of what is actually happening in their own country, MEPI said. The media skip detailed context or explanation, and instead rely on bloody and gory pictures, sensationalizing crime stories. Local media write these stories purposely, as a safety mechanism because of the entrenched fear among local reporters and editors, according to interviews and MEPI's review of various newspapers in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Analytical and explanatory journalism is also difficult to produce due to the lack of government information or statistics on the violence and criminal activity, in part because of the alleged collusion between government agencies and criminal organizations, MEPI said.

Click here for the full story published by Fundación MEPI.



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