Freedom of Expression

Press Release R45/11









Washington, D.C., May 12, 2011—The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Héctor Francisco Medina Polanco, manager and news anchor of the Omega Visión station in Honduras, who was shot on the night of May 10 in Morazán, in the department of Yoro. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State to conduct a timely, diligent, and thorough investigation into  the murder, and expresses its concern over the lack of significant progress in clarifying the murders of 11 media workers in Honduras since 2009.


According to the information the Office of the Special Rapporteur has received, when Medina Polanco left the television station he was reportedly chased by two unknown men on a motorcycle, who opened fire on him when he was close to his home. Medina Polanco was taken to a hospital in San Pedro Sula, where he died in the early morning hours of May 11.


Besides managing the local Omega Visión station, Héctor Medina worked as a producer and anchor of the TV9 news program, where he had recently reported on alleged acts of corruption by local authorities, purported irregularities committed by agents of the police, and serious conflicts over land ownership. For weeks, the journalist had been telling his family members that he was receiving death threats.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential for the Honduran State to clarify the motive for this crime; identify, prosecute, and punish those responsible; and adopt fair reparation measures for the victim's next of kin. The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists that the State needs to create special investigative bodies and protocols, as well as protection mechanisms designed to ensure the safety of those who are being threatened because of their work in journalism. In light of the series of murders committed against journalists in Honduras, it is critical that the State carry out a complete, effective, and impartial investigation of these crimes, which have a negative impact on all of Honduran society.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the State that Principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."


The death of news anchor Héctor Medina follows the murders of the following journalists: Gabriel Fino Noriega, on July 3, 2009, in San Juan Pueblo; Joseph Hernández Ochoa, on March 1, 2010, in Tegucigalpa; David Meza Montesinos, on March 11, 2010, in La Ceiba; Nahúm Palacios, on March 14, 2010, in Tocoa; José Bayardo Mairena and Manuel Juárez, on March 26, 2010, in Juticalpa; Jorge Alberto "Georgino" Orellana, on April 20, 2010, in San Pedro Sula; Luis Arturo Mondragón Morazán, on June 14, 2010, in El Paraíso; Israel Zelaya Díaz, on August 24, 2010, in San Pedro Sula; and Henry Suazo, on December 28, 2010, in La Masica.