Reporters Without Borders welcomes the conviction of three men for the murder of Alfredo Villatoro, a journalist who hosted a show on radio HRN and coordinated its programming. He was found dead near Tegucigalpa on 15 May 2012, six days after being kidnapped from his home.
A Tegucigalpa criminal court convicted Marvin Alonso Gómez and two brothers, Osman Fernando and Edgar Francisco Osorio Argujo, on 25 March, exactly 22 months after their arrest on 25 May 2012.
Accepting the detailed evidence presented by the prosecution, which included DNA identification and records of calls to Villatoro’s family demanding a ransom, the court found them guilty of aggravated abduction.
Sentences are to be announced on 25 April. According to the judges in charge of the case, the three men could receive sentences ranging from 40 years to life imprisonment under article 192 of the penal code.
“We welcome this conviction, we look forward to the sentencing and we like to think that the thorough investigation by the special prosecutor for organized crime is indicative of a desire by the authorities to reestablish justice in Honduras,” said Camille Soulier, head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.
“We hope this case will set a positive precedent and we urge the authorities to show the same commitment to resolving all crimes of violence against journalists, in order to end the impunity that has become the norm.”
More than 40 Honduran journalists have been gunned down in the past ten years. The most emblematic cases include those of:
- Aníbal Barrow, the host of the political show “Aníbal Barrow y nada más” on Globo TV, whose dismembered and partially burned body was found in July 2013, 11 days after he was kidnapped near San Pedro Sula, in the northern department of Cortés. The authorities vowed to catch those responsible but no one has ever been brought to trial.
- Globo TV cameraman Manuel Murillo Varela, whose bullet-riddled body was found in Tegucigalpa on 24 October 2013.
Honduras in ranked 129th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.