PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 37/08/99
UA 201/99 Fear for safety 6 August 1999
Renato de Jesús Alvarez, 38, journalist
HONDURASCesar Omar Silva Rosales, 29, journalist
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of the two television
journalists named above, who have reportedly faced harassment and intimidation
since their critical coverage of the police and military.
Renato Alvarez is news editor for Channel 63 Televisión Nacional de Ingenieros
(TELENISA), National Engineers’ Television. On 30 July 1999, at around 9.30pm,
he answered a loud knock at the front door of his house in Tegucigalpa and
found two men, one about 18 years old, the other around 35 years old, who told
him that his car was on fire. He became suspicious and got his neighbour to
come with him, leaving the building by the back entrance. On approaching the
car they saw that it was not on fire, and that the two men were sitting in
a blue car with no licence plates, blocking the exit from the street. Renato
Alvarez did not recognise either the car or the men, but did notice that one
had a bag which he believed concealed a gun.
On 31 July 1999, Cesar Omar Silva Rosales, a reporter with TELENISA, noticed
that he was being followed home from work by a group of men in a blue 4x4 car,
with no number plates. He drove around Tegucigalpa for two and a half hours
before he lost them. It is believed they were trying to find out where he lived.
Both Renato Alvarez and Cesar Silva Rosales have been covering issues relating
to the military and the police, in an independent and critical manner, for
TELENISA. They have both recently been working on issues surrounding the recent
unrest within the Honduran military, and Amnesty International fears that this
may be the reason that they are being targeted.
The Honduran military establishment has been unhappy for some time, especially
since a civilian, Edgardo Dumas Rodríguez, was appointed Minister of Defence
in September 1998. While the Minister of Defence was away for a few days in
July, the Vice-Minister, General Roberto Lazarus Lozano, replaced the spokesman
for the Honduran armed forces as well as the head of the Operations and Training
department. When the Minister returned, he ordered these changes reversed,
but General Lozano and at least three high-ranking military commanders refused
to obey the order, reportedly intending to bring down the military leadership.
On 30 July, after several tense hours when it seemed there was about to be
a coup, with radio stations broadcasting military music, President Carlos
Flores, supporting the Minister of Defence, dismissed four high ranking military
officers, including the Vice-minister. In June, President Flores had warned
top military personnel not to conspire against the Minister of Defence, and
to give up any hopes of seizing power.
According to local NGOs the situation has not been totally defused. In a public
statement Ramón Custodio, president of the Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos
Humanos en Honduras (CODEH), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in
Honduras, said “we can not see the crisis as being over”. His views have been
supported by the members of other Honduran non-governmental organizations.