Freedom of Expression

Press release R242/20

Office of the Special Rapporteur condemns the murder of journalist Luis Alonso Almendares in Honduras and urges to investigate the relation to his journalistic work


October 2, 2020


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 Honduran journalist Luis Alonso Almendares in the city of Comayagua, and urges the State to investigate fully, effectively, and impartially this crime, clarify its motive, and determine the relation it could have to his journalistic activity and freedom of expression.

According to the information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, at dawn on September 28, Luis Alonso Almendares (35) was recording a video on the streets of Comayagua while he was on his way to a food store when he was intercepted by two individuals on a motorcycle who shot at him repeatedly. The journalist was initially transferred to the Santa Teresa Hospital in Comayagua, and then to the Hospital Escuela Universitario (HEU) in Tegucigalpa, where he died a few hours later. Publicly available information indicates that the journalist managed to record and publish a video on social networks at the time of being attacked, in which he was heard asking for help from a group of people.

The State reported that the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Life - specifically the section for deaths committed to vulnerable groups - is in charge of the investigation and that there have been searches and raids. Likewise, despite the fact that the journalist had received protection from the Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists, the State reported that he withdrew his protection on February 26, 2019.

After working in local media and as a correspondent for radio stations nationwide, Luis Almendares worked independently and used social networks to report news from the city of Comayagua, with more than 20,000 users following his content.

According to available information, the journalist had filed at least 10 complaints of death threats with the police and the government mechanism for the protection of communicators. The police announced that they had initiated actions to determine the whereabouts of the two individuals who shot Luis Almendares.

The IACHR's Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemned the journalist's death, warning that he is "another victim of violence for Honduran journalism this year."

This Office has repeatedly warned about violence against journalists and communicators in Honduras. In 2019, at least 6 murders were reported, which could have a link to journalistic work. Likewise, the Office of the Special Rapporteur recently spoke on the murder of journalist Germán Vallecillo and cameraman Jorge Posas on July 1 in the city of La Ceiba. In the 2019 "Report on the human rights situation in Honduras", the IACHR highlighted that violence against journalists and impunity for these crimes continue to seriously affect the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the country. It also pointed out that, although the reforms to the legislative and institutional framework in matters of prevention, protection, and prosecution have been positively recognized as important steps to combat this type of violence, the State has not yet managed to effectively guarantee journalists' right to exercise their work free of violence and, consequently, the right of Honduran society to access information of public interest is affected.

The murder of journalists constitutes the most extreme form of censorship, and States have a positive obligation to identify and punish the perpetrators of these crimes. In accordance with principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, "[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 calls on the Honduran State to fully, effectively, and impartially investigate this crime, clarify its motives, and judicially determine the relationship it may have to journalistic activity and freedom of expression.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with the aim of encouraging the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given its fundamental role in consolidating and developing the democratic system.