The body of Israel Zelaya Díaz, a radio journalist based in the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, was found at a roadside yesterday. He had been shot. His death brings the number of Honduran journalists murdered since the start of the year to nine. A member of the Association of Journalists of Honduras, Zelaya presented a programme on Radio Internacional.
“The fact that the motive, as in most of the other cases, has yet to be determined, should not be used as pretext of ruling out the possibility that this murder was related to the victim’s work as a journalist, or that it was politically motivated,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This is what the authorities have usually done since the June 2009 coup d’état, which had such a tragic impact on media freedom.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Justice had not been rendered in any of the cases of violence involving the Honduran press in the past 14 months. We call on those investigating Zelaya’s murder to give priority to the possibility of a link to his work as a journalist.”
Zelaya’s body was found beside a sugarcane field near Villanueva, a town to the south of San Pedro Sula. According to initial reports, he had been shot three times in the head. The fact that neither his money nor any of his personal belongings had been taken indicate that the motive was not robbery.
In the course of a career as a journalist that began in the 1960s, Zelaya had worked for two of the country’s leading radio stations, HRN and Radio América, as well as for the daily La Tribuna. His home was the target of an arson attack at the beginning of the year.
Zelaya’s murder confirms Honduras’ joint status with nearby Mexico as the two deadliest countries in the western hemisphere for journalists. They are among the world’s most dangerous places for the media.
Only one of the nine journalists murdered in Honduras since the start of the years has so far been added to the Reporters Without Borders list of journalists killed in connection with their work. It is Televisora de Aguán-Canal 5 news director Nahum Palacios Arteaga, who was gunned down on 14 March after being the target of serious threats believed to have come from the army.
News media and journalists critical of the 2009 coup have been the constant target of threats and harassment. David Meza Montesinos of Abriendo Brecha TV and radio El Patio was gunned down on 11 March after denouncing organised crime activities in the northern Atlantic coast region.