RSF also urges the police to prioritize the hypothesis that Edgar Joel Aguilar’s murder was linked to his work as a reporter – covering crime and court cases, inter alia – for Canal 6, a national TV channel, and for two local TV channels, Telemaya Canal 12 and Cablemar TV.
The second journalist to be murdered in Honduras in 2019, Aguilar had just gone into a barbershop, after leaving his Canal 6 motorcycle outside, when a gunman followed him inside and shot him several times in the face.
RSF has learned that Aguilar had personal problems with the city’s mayor, Vicente de León, whom he often accused of corruption in his TV reports. In the past, Aguilar had closed links with a local drug trafficking ring, several of whose members were arrested and extradited to the United States.
National police spokesman Jair Meza said Aguilar had been the target of armed attacks in 2008, 2014 and 2017. The day before his murder, Aguilar had reported being followed and harassed by unidentified persons and had requested protection from the local police.
But the head of the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists, Danilo Morales, said Aguilar had not reported any threats to his organization and had not requested any form of special protection.
“The Honduran authorities investigating this shocking execution-style murder must prioritize the hypothesis that it was linked to the victim’s journalism and they must identify those responsible as soon as possible,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.
“When they are not themselves behind attacks against the media, the Honduran authorities are completely useless at protecting journalists, for whom they are nonetheless responsible. The National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists must be urgently overhauled and strengthened, and President Juan Orlando Hernández’s government must create a proper programme for combatting impunity for murders against journalists, without which the vicious cycle of violence against the media will never end.”
As a matter of urgency, the authorities also need to establish a special protocol for investigations into violence against journalists.
The first journalist to be murdered this year in Honduras was local TV presenter Gabriel Hernández, who was gunned down in the southern city of Nacaome on 17 March. According to the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH), 91% of the murders of journalists since 2001 have gone unpunished.
Threats and attacks against independent media outlets are very frequent and have increased in 2019. Two journalists, Jairo López and Edgar Andino, were harassed and threatened by officials and local police in the first quarter of the year despite receiving protection from the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists.
Honduras is ranked 146th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, five places lower than in 2018.