Knight Center
Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

More journalists killed in Honduras; RSF calls it "the country of impunity"



Impunity in the murders of journalists has always been a problem in most Latin American countries.

The first steps, finding those responsible and determining motives, is especially challenging in Honduras, a country with the highest murder rate in the world where, according to Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF by its initials in French), “impunity is the rule.”

In the past two weeks, several journalists from the Central American country have been killed and there are no clear explanations as to who killed them or why.

On July 4, two people on a motorcycle fired on Honduran TV station owner Joel Aquiles Torres, 48, at least 29 times as he was traveling in Taulabé, according to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Torres owned Canal 67 and a local cable system.

In Copan, on the border with Guatemala, Channel 13 cameraman Deibi Adalí Rodríguez was killed near his home on June 28. The killing took place in the midst of protests against corruption in Honduras, according to the Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre).

Two men killed 52-year-old Jacobo Montoya Ramírez on June 25 at his home in Copán Ruinas. Some organizations have said Montoya Ramírez was a radio and TV journalist, while other outlets said he was the brother of two journalists.

On the northern coast of Honduras, Canal Teleport journalist and LGBTI activist Juan Carlos Andara was found dead with multiple stab wounds in his Puerto Cortés home on June 22. He had received an anonymous death threat in February and reported it to the police, according to La Prensa.

Possibly highlighting the difficulties in obtaining accurate information and determining motives behind killings, different advocacy organizations have reported on or omitted certain victims mentioned above. Additionally, each organization has its own criteria for determining whether a killing was connected to the work of a journalist. Some organizations also consider all media workers, while others report only on journalists.

The IAPA recently called on authorities to investigate the killings of Aquiles Torres, Adalí Rodríguez and Andara, but did not mention Montoya Ramírez. The organization also called for investigation into recent killings of journalists in Mexico where three journalists recently were killed in the span of one week.

Claudio Paolillo, the organization’s President of the Commission of Freedom of the Press and Information, said the level of violence in the countries makes it difficult to tell if attacks against journalists are carried out because of their work.

RSF condemned the recent violence and reported on the murders of Aquiles Torres, Montoya Ramírez and Andara, but did not mention Adalí Rodríguez.

The organization said “Honduras was the western hemisphere’s fourth deadliest country for journalists in 2014.” The top three countries in the hemisphere were Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.

Previously this year, Radio Globo journalist Erick Arriaga was killed on February 23. As the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reported, authorities connected his death to criminal gangs, not his work as a journalist, but some organizations rejected that explanation.

In May, Honduran newspaper Tiempo published an editorial highlighting the challenges faced by journalists in the country.

“We are aware of the difficulties, exacerbated through time, to act freely. The threats - veiled and open -, the persecution, retaliation, murders, all hang over journalists and media who do not follow the orders of those interested in suppressing the freedom of expression. But the magnitude of the challenge is, in the journalistic profession, the greatest incentive to assert their vocation and their vow of service to society.”

That same month, RSF published a report detailing that journalists from Radio Globo and Globo TV have worked amid killings, threats, kidnappings, harassment, blocking of information, defamation suits, radio closures and cuts in government advertising since the coup of 2009.

In its 2015 World Report on Honduras, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said “Journalists and peasant activists are particularly vulnerable to violence, yet the government routinely fails to prosecute those responsible and provide protection for those at risk.”

HRW quoted statistics from the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) that said more than 30 journalists have been killed since 2009.



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