Freedom of Expression








Washington, D.C., August 26, 2010—The Office of the Special  Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Israel Zelaya Díaz, which took place last Tuesday, August 24, 2010, in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The Office of the Rapporteur expresses its deep concern over the grave situation for journalism in Honduras, a country in which at least eight journalists have been killed this year, with nothing yet known about the causes of the crimes or those responsible, or about measures adopted by the State to protect journalists at risk.

According to the information received, Israel Zelaya was found dead of gunshot wounds on Tuesday afternoon on a sugarcane plantation. None of his personal belongings had been stolen. Three months earlier, his house had been damaged by a fire whose cause could not be determined. As this Office of the Rapporteur has learned, Zelaya worked on a local news program at Radio Internacional, of San Pedro Sula, and he made a practice of denouncing matters of public interest.

The following other journalists have been murdered in Honduras this year: Joseph Hernández, on March 1 in Tegucigalpa; David Meza Montesinos, who died in La Ceiba on March 11; Nahúm Palacios, who was killed in Tocoa on March 14; Bayardo Mairena and Manuel Juárez, who were killed in Juticalpa on March 26; Jorge Alberto (Georgino) Orellano, who died on April 20 in San Pedro Sula; and Luis Arturo Mondragón, who was murdered on June 14 in El Paraíso. According to what the Office of the Special Rapporteur was able to confirm on its last visit to Honduras, these facts and the lack of effective and thorough investigations into them have kept the journalism profession in a state of permanent anxiety.

For the Office of the Special Rapporteur, the ongoing situation of risk faced by Honduran journalists is a matter of enormous concern, as is the absence of adequate measures to protect journalists and to prosecute the crimes that are committed. The Office of the Rapporteur has thus urged the State to create special investigative bodies and protocols, as well as protection mechanisms designed to guarantee the integrity of those who are facing threats due to their journalistic activities. As this office has stated before, it is urgent for the State of Honduras to conduct thorough, effective, and impartial investigations into the crimes committed against journalists and to identify, prosecute, and duly punish those responsible.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the State that Principle 9 of the 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."

For additional information about the Office of the Special Rapporteur: