Honduran security minister rages against newspaper for publishing shoot-out footage

Following the release of a video showing the shooting deaths of two young people in Honduras and the publication of several violent events in the country, the president and security minister of Honduras are blaming the media for harming the country's image and causing social damage.

On Thursday, Feb. 7, Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla said the newspaper El Heraldo did not respect the families of the two youths killed when it released an exclusive recording of the Nov. 21, 2012 shootout. The crime remains unsolved.

El Heraldo claimed that the authorities failed to open an investigation into the shoot-out and that the prosecutor's office had not filed the video as evidence. According to the newspaper, the video is an example of the impunity that persists in Honduras, which has the world's highest murder rate at 92 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

"I'm going to call out two people in particular. Don Jorge Canahuati, owner of the El Heraldo newspaper, who, with total disrespect for the bereaved, published this video on his website and the front page of his newspaper with the intention of defaming the country's image, which is all of ours," Bonilla said in a press conference where reporters had no opportunity to ask questions. The minister also condemned journalist Renato Álvarez's decision to replay the video on his news broadcast and his coverage of problems at the Supreme Court, according to the newspaper Proceso.

In December 2012, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo accused the owner of the El Heraldo and La Prensa newspapers of advocating a coup d'état against his government after they published articles about disagreements between the Central American country's executive and judicial branches of government.

group of reporters supported the video's release on El Heraldo's website and blasted the official's statements and his intentions to investigate who leaked the video to the press instead of finding the criminals responsible, reported El Heraldo. Journalist Eduardo Maldonado, director of the HCH television broadcast station, said "our obligation as journalists is to report and the police's is to provide security." Journalist David Romero, director of Radio Globo, explained that his station broadcast the video because it "exposes the inefficacy of the police, exposes the country's high index of crime we live with, and fundamentally exposes the impunity that lives in Honduras," according to El Heraldo.

One day later, President Lobo again gave statements against the press's coverage of violence in the country. "I don't know how Ana Pineda (minister of Human Rights) has not filed a complaint with the United Nations or wherever...they know the damage this does to the children, featuring this news in the headlines, violence desensitizes and does terrible harm," Lobo said on Friday, Feb. 8, according to the newspaper Proceso.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.