Journalist murdered in southern Honduras, first this year
Condemning TV journalist Gabriel Hernández’s murder in southern Honduras on 17 March, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges investigators to prioritize the hypothesis that it was linked to his journalism and calls for urgent reinforcement of the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists.
The director and presenter of a programme called “El Pueblo Habla” on independent Valle TV, Hernández, 54, was gunned down in broad daylight in Nacaome, the capital of the southern department of Valle, as he was about to board a bus to go home.
Shot by two men aboard a vehicle who immediately drove off, he was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died of his injuries a few hours later. He was the first journalist to be murdered in Honduras in 2019.
Hernández was an outspoken journalist who often accused local politicians of corruption in his programme. A few days before his murder, he posted an opinion piece on Facebook calling for President Juan Orlando Hernández’s resignation.
His outspoken commentaries had prompted many death threats, which he reported to the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists last year. But officials at the Mechanism decided that he was not in any serious danger and refused him protection.
RSF is meanwhile very concerned for the safety of Leonel García, a journalist who was very close to Hernández. The presenter of the independent TV news programme “Noticias Dígalo Cómo Quiera,” García often worked with Hernández and, just before the latter’s murder, had accused Nacaome mayor Victor Flores and local parliamentarian Alfredo Saavedra of corruption.
Last month, after receiving threats, García asked the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists for emergency protection, but his request was also turned down. RSF managed to contact García today. He is extremely upset and fears that he could also be murdered.
“The Honduran authorities must conduct an impartial investigation into this appalling murder and prioritize the hypothesis that it was linked to the victim’s journalism,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists must also be reinforced and its criteria for granting protection must be urgently reviewed in order to provide Leonel García and his family with the protection they need.”
The past few months have seen many threats and attacks against independent media in Honduras, especially in the south of the country, where two journalists, Jairo López and Edgar Andino, have been harassed and threatened by officials and local police in recent weeks although they are getting protection from the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists.
Honduras is ranked 141st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.