Freedom of Expression

Press Release R81/17

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Murder of Journalist Víctor Fúnez in Honduras

June 20, 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 and Partido Nacional congressional candidate, Víctor Fúnez, known as "El Masa," on June 15 in the Honduran city of La Ceiba, and urges the State to investigate the crime and its possible connection to his journalistic work with due diligence.

According to the available information, the journalist was on his way home in the early morning hours of June 15 when an unknown assailant on a motorcycle shot him at least twice, killing him. Fúnez had been working as the host of the nightly news program "Informe Nocturno," on Canal 45 in La Ceiba. According to Security Minister Julián Pacheco Tinoco, a special group of investigators has already been established to determine the motive and identify those responsible for the journalist’s murder. The alleged direct perpetrator was reportedly apprehended by members of the national police on the day of 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.