Intimidation and Threats to Free Press on Roatan
Following the print publication of the article “Dale in Trouble … Again” in the January issue of Bay Islands Voice (BIV), Mayor Jackson turned his threats to intimidation. Over the course of the month Mayor Jackson initiated suspension of the magazines operating license, demanded a launching of immigration investigation and initiated a Roatan Municipality proposal to make BIV publisher a “persona non grata.”
While Mayor Jackson never asked nor received a follow-up story from La Tribuna, which ran the Castle Rock charge story first, in a phone conversation on January 8, Mayor Jackson demanded that BIV write a retraction of the entire piece. “Everything in the article is a lie,” said Mayor Jackson, “I am the most important person on Roatan.”
On January 9, Mayor Jackson referred to Castle Rock writing a letter withdrawing its charges against him, but he refused to make a copy of the letter available to BIV. Castle Rock’s letter is in fact not an apology, nor a withdrawal of charges, but an offer of reconciliation. In exchange for granting a business permit, Castle Rock “offers 10 yds per month of concrete to be donated to the Municipal for public works programs,” Janior Fabricio Romero, Manager of Castle Rock, wrote in the letter.
“You are not even Honduran and you shouldn’t write about Hondurans,” told BIV publisher Mayor Jackson, who admitted he only reads the BIV magazine when alerted to a negative coverage of his persona. Mayor Jackson again stated he will not renew BIV operating permit for 2008. BIV has had a Roatan Municipal operating permit since 2003, with 2006 and 2007 permits approved by Mayor Jackson himself.
On January 9, the harassment followed with Bay Islands Immigration Chief Mario Pacheco calling BIV publisher at 8:30pm and demanding an immediate meeting. Pacheco refused to give reason for the demand and refused to talk to the legal representative of BIV. “The reason I want to see you is because I want to see you,” said Pacheco. On January 15, based on a written Roatan Municipality complaint signed by Mayor Jackson, BIV publisher’s US passport was seized “to investigate application for residency.”
During a meeting with Governor Arlie Thompson, Mayor Jackson was asked to point out all inaccuracies in the article “Dale in Trouble … Again.” Mayor Jackson had comments about the photo used with the article and said that, unlike the article states, he no longer operates under Diamond Jack Construction but owns the construction company in his own name.
On January 25, the Municipality of Roatan held a corporation meeting in which, as a point on the agenda, a proposal to make BIV publisher “persona non grata” was discussed. According to Mayor Jackson, Roatan Municipal board voted to demand the halt of “further printing of Bay Islands Voice until operating permit is granted and immigration issues clarified.”
The US Embassy has contacted Mayor Jackson to discourage him from considering refusal of the renewal of the BIV operating license. “I strongly encouraged him [Mayor Jackson] to engage with you in a constructive manner over the disagreement he has with your stories, or, failing that, simply to ignore your reporting,” wrote Douglass Benning, US Consul in Tegucigalpa. “As a public figure, being the subject of such criticism could not be surprising.” [/private]