The bullet-riddled body of Manuel Murillo Varela, a young freelance cameraman, was found in Tegucigalpa yesterday, exactly four months after journalist Anibal Barrow’s abduction and murder. This later murder of a journalist comes just a month before general elections scheduled for 24 November.
“We call on the authorities to organize a thorough and independent investigation to shed light on all aspects of this murder,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We also call for an end to impunity for all crimes of violence against journalists, because investigations have been slow to produce results.
“In view of the constant violence against journalists and the fact that most cases go unpunished, we urge candidates in next month’s elections to undertake to ensure respect for freedom of information in their districts, and we urge the authorities to create a special committee for the protection of journalists during the election period.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had asked Honduras to take precautionary measures to protect Murillo after a score of policemen kidnapped and tortured him and a colleague for 24 hours in February 2010.
Murillo had told the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) and the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (CVR) that policemen seeking video footage of demonstrations by opponents of the June 2009 military coup had threatened to kill his family.
He continued to work as journalist despite all the threats and intimidation to which he was exposed right up until his murder. His case is emblematic of all the violence against journalists since the coup – violence that seems to be increasing again in the run-up to next month’s elections.
In the past four years, Reporters Without Borders has registered nine murders of journalists in which the motives were directly linked to the victims’ work. At least 18 other journalists and information providers have been killed in the same period without it being possible to establish a link with their work.
Attempts by independent news providers to cover such issues as mining, the “purge” of the police and the human rights situation seems to prompt almost automatic reprisals.
The slowness of judicial investigations and a lack of political will are contributing to the growing problem of impunity. As a result of the violence, censorship and persecution of community media, journalists such as Dina Meza and Fidelina Sandoval have fled abroad.
Ranked 127th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Honduras has seen a considerable increase in the already high level of violence since the coup and is now one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists and human rights defenders.