Honduras: reporter threatened over election story

Ernesto Carmona, the Chilean general secretary of the Investigation Commission on Attacks Against Journalists (CIAP) of the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP), told the Cuban wire service Prensa Latina on Dec. 17 that the life of Swedish journalist Dick Emanuelsson was in danger because of an article he wrote questioning official turnout projections in the Nov. 29 Honduran general elections. Right-wing forces in the country have claimed there was high voter participation, which they say validated a June 28 coup that removed President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office; coup opponents said turnout was about 30-40%.

Emanuelsson, who is based in Honduras, wrote an article on Dec. 1 about an interview he held with Rolando Bú, coordinator of the election monitoring nonprofit Fundación Hagamos Democracia (FHD). The interview focused on the discrepancy between the 61.3% voter participation rate given by Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and the 47.6% figure the FHD gave based on its own monitoring of polling places; Emanuelsson also revealed that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) paid up to 29% of the FHD’s $300,000 budget for 2009.

Bú later charged that Emanuelsson taped the interview without permission, and he threatened to press charges. Emanuelsson said one of Bú’s secretaries told him he might “meet the same fate as Father [José Andrés] Tamayo”—a Salvadoran environmental activist and priest who has been ordered expelled from Honduras. Emanuelsson thinks he might be physically attacked, according to CIAP. “Things are ugly here, and every day it seems more like Colombia,” Carmona quoted Emanuelsson as saying. The reporter left Colombia previously because of death threats. (PL, Dec. 17; Rebanadas de Realidad, Argentina, Dec. 1)

The TSE isn’t expected to give its final count until Dec. 23 at the earliest, but on Dec. 19 its website showed a participation rate of 49.4%—with “100.07%” [sic] of the 2,297,465 votes counted. The total of blank and spoiled ballots was 155,584, according to the website, so that the total valid votes in the official count represented about 46% of registered voters, far below the TSE’s original figure. It is unknown how many voters spoiled their votes or left them blank on purpose to protest the de facto government, but the pro-coup Tegucigalpa daily La Tribuna showed a picture of a spoiled ballot: the voter had written “coup-perpetrating SOBs” across the pictures of the presidential candidates. (Honduras Coup 2009, Dec. 19; La Tribuna, Dec. 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 20

See our last posts on Honduras.