A journalist died Sunday in Honduras days after being shot, the fourth journalist killed so far this year and the 97th since 2001, a freedom of expression organization denounced.
The executive director of the Committee for Freedom of Expression (C-Libre), Amada Ponce, told AFP that “Ricardo Alcides Avila, 25, died” in a Tegucigalpa hospital after being shot in the head on Wednesday by unknown assailants in the south of the country.
Ponce said Avila was a journalist and cameraman for the Metro television and radio station in the city of Choluteca, 85 km south of the capital.
“On the morning of May 26, he was traveling from his home in the community of Santa Cruz to his work in Choluteca, and there he was intercepted by unknown persons who shot him at very close range,” he said.
Avila was taken to a hospital in the capital. Hours later, the police claimed that it was a common criminal assault.
“C-Libre has been able to confirm that it was not an assault. At the scene they found the young man’s backpack with 9,000 lempiras (about 367 dollars), his cell phone, his personal documents, keys and the motorcycle (on which he was riding), completely unharmed,” he added.
For C-Libre, the murder “is because of the work Ricardo was doing (…) linked to social movements” in the southern part of the country, he stressed.
He stressed that a few days before he was wounded, Avila told his co-workers that he had to change his phone because he believed it had been “hacked”.
“This is an important element that the police have not investigated” and perhaps did not report it “because of the little credibility that the police have,” the C-Libre director commented.
She pointed out that the committee has issued alerts of frequent threats received by personnel of the channel and Radio Metro because of their editorial line.
Ponce denounced that four journalists have been murdered so far this year and that since 2001, a total of 97 journalists, media owners and employees have died violent deaths in the Central American country.
In a statement on Avila’s death, C-Libre demanded that “the Public Prosecutor’s Office should have a protocol for the investigation of violent deaths of journalists and social communicators”.
The committee assured that since the 2009 coup d’état against then president Manuel Zelaya, husband of current president Xiomara Castro, “attacks and murders against journalists have increased”.
“Honduras is placed by international human rights organizations among the most dangerous countries for the practice of journalism”, he denounced.
This in spite of the fact that in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) carried out by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, “the authorities committed themselves to guarantee freedom of expression”, he emphasized.
“In the UPR, the authorities committed the State to establish the necessary measures to provide protection to journalists, investigate, prosecute crimes and convict those responsible,” he said.
But “crimes against the press continue and more than 90% remain unpunished,” he said.