Freedom of Expression

Press Release R52/12






Washington D.C., 17 May, 2012. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of radio journalist Alfredo Villatoro, who had been kidnapped on May 9 and was found dead in Tegucigalpa on May 15. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges authorities to conduct a diligent, timely and thorough investigation that does not rule out the hypothesis that the journalist may have been killed because of his professional practice.

According to the information received, several armed men allegedly took Villatoro when he was on his way to work in the early hours of May 9, after blocking the vehicle he was in. Despite important police efforts, authorities were not able to find the media worker. On May 15, the Villatoro´s body was found with two shots in the head in a vacant lot south of Tegucigalpa. Police made public that he appeared to have been murdered there a short time before his body was found. Villatoro was a well-known influential journalist that worked as news coordinator for the HRN radio network, one of the country´s most important networks, and hosted a morning news broadcast show in that station.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential for the Honduran State to clarify the motive for these crimes; identify, prosecute, and punish those responsible; and adopt fair measures of reparation 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 Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (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.

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