Elba Rubio is a reporter for the community radio station La Voz De Zacate Grande. The radio station is located in the far south of the country where local residents are engaged in a bitter land dispute with the country’s richest man, Miguel Facussé Barjum, who is trying to develop tourism projects and expand palm oil production.
Radio communication is critical to the community’s struggle against illegal land seizures and the journalists have become the target of attacks and restrictions. In December 2010, Elba and her colleague were reporting on a family’s land seizure. Tensions escalated as the family, with the support of local community members, faced off against the security forces.
Despite presenting her press pass, Elba was arrested. During her detention, she was subject to physical and sexual violence by the police. Elba was charged with “disobedience and sedition,” her camera and notes being used as evidence that she had been present at the scene.
The courts dismissed an annulment and Elba was forced to go to trial. The judge issued a number of restrictive measures including banning Elba from leaving the country, banning participations in public demonstrations, and banning any type of contact with the local community where she was arrested. An international organization representing community broadcasters and Reporters Without Borders have criticized the ruling saying it impedes the ability of a journalist to do their job.
Furthermore, the judge ruled that Elba must present herself to the court every 15 days. This measure forces her to walk between 3 communities and use a ferry, not only a significant expense but increasing risk of sexual assault.
The local radio station has been denied access to airwaves and all of its young journalists have faced prosecution. Elba has received death threats, while the District Attorney has offered to suspend the restrictive measure in exchange for a guilty plea. Elba has refused.
“Restrictions imposed in absence of any guilty finding,” Reporters Without Borders, 20 January 2011.
“AMARC concerned over restrictions against two radio journalists,” International Freedom of Expression Exchange, 21 January 2011.
“Community radio stations still denied access to air waves,” Reporters Without Borders, 28 June, 2011.
“Community radio stations still denied access to airwaves, RSF and AMARC note,” International Freedom of Expression Exchange, 5 July 2011.
The Honduran state has repeatedly attempted to force the radio station to stop its investigations, often by using force. The video below was taken on June 3, 2010 when over 300 members of the security forces surrounded the small building.