Honduran authorities say a television journalist was shot to death last week shortly after leaving his station. Security spokesman Jair Meza Barahona says that José Arita was killed after leaving Channel 12 in the north coast city of Puerto Cortes. The initial investigation suggests that four men were waiting for Arita outside and began shooting at close range. Meza Barahona says the killing could have been related to Arita’s work.
The president of the Honduras College of Journalists says that 84 journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2001. Dagoberto Rodríguez says that only seven of those killings have been solved.
As Americans, we should pause and think how fortunate we live in a country where journalists don’t have to fear for their lives when they publish the truth. Freedom of the press is protected by the 1st Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, but even more importantly, it is protected by a legal system that effectively enforces the rule of law. The United States is a civilized society where thugs and criminals are punished and kept in check.
When we read our local newspaper or online news source, most of us don’t give this a second thought. We just assume that journalists are free and protected. But, in fact, this is not the case in most places in the world where journalists live in fear for their lives. The situation in Honduras is a stark reminder that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fragile rights that have been protected at a high cost of human blood. This should also underscore the importance of real journalism. What professional journalists report is important, so important that it’s a matter of life and death. In this age of social media and amateur blogs, Americans need to support its professional news establishments. Without them, our country will soon slide into lawlessness.