Over January 2022, ProtectDefenders.eu’s partners have received with great concern the information about the killings of at least two indigenous human rights defenders in Honduras, and condemn the climate of persecution and attacks against those who defend the land, the environment and the human rights of indigenous peoples in Honduras.
On January 9, unknown persons killed with firearms the Lenca indigenous leader Pablo Hernández, defender of the land and the environment, president of the Cacique Lempira Lord of the Mountains Network of Agroecologists of the Biosphere, director of Radio Tenán, “La Voz Indígena Lenca”, member of the Network of Human Rights Defenders of the department of Lempira and promoter of the Indigenous and Peoples University. Pablo Hernández in the municipality of San Marcos de Caiquín. After the complaints he made as a community journalist about human rights violations and acts of corruption by the administration of the municipality of San Marcos de Caiquín, which would be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pablo Hernández was the target of attacks and threats, which he publicly denounced. Likewise, in February 2021, the electrical installation of Radio Tenán, “La Voz Indígena Lenca” was sabotaged by unknown persons, preventing the broadcast of radio programs. Despite these attacks, which would have been in retaliation for his work denouncing and defending human rights, the authorities did not take any measures to guarantee his safety.
On January 22, Melvin Geovany, a Tolupán indigenous leader belonging to the La Candelaria tribe and a defender of the rights of the land and indigenous peoples, was killed with firearms by unknown persons on the highway leading to the city of Morazán, department of Yoro. Melvin Geovany was traveling with a friend, who died on the spot, while the defender was seriously injured and died a few minutes later from his gunshot wounds. Melvin Geovany was a member of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), an organization that works to end corruption and protect natural assets and human rights. As a member of MADJ, he worked to protect the ancestral lands of the Tolupán indigenous people from national and international extractive companies. Melvin Geovany and his brother Luis Electerio Mejía, also a human rights defender, have been victims of harassment, intimidation and death threats in recent years, for which Melvin Geovany had to relocate to another village together with his family.
The plight of the media has worsened steadily in Honduras (151st in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index), which continues to be one of the western hemisphere’s deadliest countries for journalists. Those working for opposition media or community media are often subjected to harassment, intimidation campaigns and death threats, and some are forced to flee abroad. The security forces, especially the military police and army, are responsible for most of the abuses and violence against the media. In this country racked by violence, organised crime and corruption, the impunity rate is among the highest in the region. Journalists are also often the targets of abusive judicial proceedings, and prison sentences for defamation are common, sometimes accompanied by bans on working as a journalist after release.