Freedom of Expression

Press Release R49/11







Washington, D.C., May 27, 2011—The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights deplores the murder in Honduras of Channel 24 owner Luis Mendoza Cerrato, which took place May 19 in the city of Danlí, and the attempted murder of newspaper manager Manuel Acosta Medina of La Tribuna, which occurred May 23 in Tegucigalpa. The Office of the Rapporteur urges the appropriate authorities in Honduras not to rule out the possibility that these crimes are related to the victims' work in the media until they have carried out a diligent, timely, and thorough investigation.


According to the information that has been received, at least three hooded, heavily armed men ambushed Luis Mendoza and shot him multiple times at the entrance to the television station, as he was arriving for work in the morning. The businessman died in the hail of bullets, and two women and a child who were passing by were wounded. The perpetrators fled in a vehicle that they later abandoned and set on fire. In the case of Manuel Acosta, he was leaving the newspaper when his vehicle was blocked by his attackers' two vehicles. When the executive sped up to get away, the criminals opened fire and wounded him. Manuel Acosta was able to drive home, where his family attended to him and took him to a hospital.


The appropriate Honduran authorities are investigating both events. As a result of the attack on  Acosta, the police arrested five armed suspects who were traveling in a vehicle similar to the one used in the attack. However, the motive for both attacks remains unknown.


For the Office of the Special Rapporteur, it is essential that the Honduran State demonstrate its commitment to the fight against impunity through concrete action and effective investigations, and through the protection of media outlets and journalists. The Office of the Special Rapporteur also reiterates its concern over the lack of significant progress in shedding light on another 11 murders of media workers since 2009. In all these cases, it is urgent to identify and prosecute those responsible, punish them accordingly, and guarantee adequate reparation to the victims' family members.


The ninth principle 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."


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