Freedom of Expression

Press Release R70/11





Washington, D.C., July 18, 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 Nery Jeremías Orellana, which took place on July 14, 2010, in the municipality of Candelaria, department of Lempira. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State to conduct a prompt, diligent and thorough investigation and requests that the authorities not rule out the possibility that the crime was connected to the victim’s professional activities and his condemnations of human rights violations.


According to the information received, Orellana was on his motorcycle traveling to work at Radio Joconguera when unidentified gunmen shot him several times in the head. The journalist was rushed alive to a hospital in Sensuntepeque where he died hours later.


Orellana, 26, was the director of Radio Joconguera, in Candelaria, and was a correspondent for Radio Progreso. As director, he invited the Catholic Church and the National Front of Popular Resistance to participate in various programs, and he had assumed a critical position in response to the coup d’état against President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Moments before being killed he had confirmed his participation in a July 15 meeting of community radio stations.  


The Office of the Special Rapporteur believes 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 solving the 13 murders of media workers committed since July 2009. In all these cases, it is the obligation of the State to adopt all necessary measures to identify the motive of the crime without arbitrarily dismissing the possibility that the media worker’s professional activity led to the murder. As a product of the investigations, the State should identify and prosecute those responsible, punish them where appropriate, and guarantee adequate reparation to the victims' family members.


Since 2009, the following journalists and media workers have been murdered in Honduras: Gabriel Fino Noriega, found dead in San Juan Pueblo on July 3, 2009; Joseph Hernández, murdered on March 1, 2010 in Tegucigalpa; David Meza Montesinos, murdered in La Ceiba on March 11, 2010; Nahúm Palacios, found dead in Tocoa on March 14, 2010;  Bayardo Mairena and Manuel Juárez, murdered in Juticalpa on March 26, 2010; Jorge Alberto (Georgino) Orellana, found dead on April 20, 2010 in San Pedro Sula; Luis Arturo Mondragón, murdered on June 14, 2010 in El Paraíso; Israel Zelaya, murdered in San Pedro Sula on on August 24, 2010; Henry Suazo, found dead in La Masica on December 28, 2010; Hector Francisco Medina Polanco, murdered in Morazán on May 10, 2011; and Luis Mendoza Cerrato, murdered in Dalí on May 19, 2011. In none of the investigations have Honduran authorities reported any significant progress.


Also, the crime against Nery Jeremías Orellana occurs in a context of threats against the radio stations that have maintained an independent editorial position and have reported on issues of corruption and possible human rights violations. In particular, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has expressed its concern over the constant harassment and threats against journalists and media workers from the radio stations Guarajambala, La Voz Lenca, Faluma Bimetu (Coco Dulce) from the Garifuna community in the locality of Triunfo de la Cruz, and La Voz de Zacate Grande, as well as its concern regarding the situation of Radio Progreso, whose members are the beneficiaries of precautionary measures from the IACHR.


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."