Freedom of Expression

Press Release R4/17

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Murder of a TV Journalist in Honduras

January 23, 2017

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Igor Padilla, which took place on January 17 in Honduras, and urges the State to investigate the crime with due diligence and determine its possible link with journalistic activity.

According to the information available, the journalist was filming a commercial in the city of San Pedro Sula, when unknown individuals shot him repeatedly causing his death. Padilla covered the police source and hosted an entertainment program on HCH television channel. On January 4, journalists Ernesto Alonso Rojas and Suly Cálix, who worked for the same channel as Padilla, reported that they had received death threats.

On January 17, the Ministry of Security condemned through a press release the incident and stated that, by order of the President of the Republic, all the available resources were disposed of to find the whereabouts of those responsible. The State informed that the operations carried out by the National Police to find the suspects of the murder would have been able to identify the vehicles from where the journalist was shot and there would be indications of the participation of maras and gang members in the murder.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur deems it essential for the Honduran State to investigate fully, effectively and impartially these crimes that affect all Honduran society and to clarify its motives, and judicially determine the relationship they may have with journalistic activity and freedom of expression. Authorities should not rule out the practice of journalism as a motive for the murder and / or aggression before the investigation is completed.

Both the Commission and the Inter-American Court have referred to the intimidating effect that crimes against journalists have on other media professionals as well as on citizens who seek to report abuses of power or unlawful acts of any kind. This intimidating effect can only be avoided, according to the Commission, "by swift action on the part of the State to punish all perpetrators, as is its duty under international and domestic law."

The Office of the Special Rapporteur stresses the need to create special investigative bodies and protocols, as well as to implement the protection mechanisms enshrined in the Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators, approved in 2015 by Congress, that seek to guarantee the integrity of those who are threatened by the exercise of their journalistic activity.

Following the on-site visit to Honduras in December 2014, the IACHR insisted that it is imperative for the State of Honduras to urgently investigate the deaths of journalists and journalists and to prosecute and convict those responsible thereof. The maintenance of impunity is not only a denial of justice for the families of the victims but also sends a social message that violence against these people is tolerated by the State.

Principle 9 of the IACHR's Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "[t]he 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 Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.