TV host slain; 6th Honduran journalist killed since March

New York, April 21, 2010The Committee to Protect Journalists voiced deep concern today at the killing of Honduran television anchor Jorge Alberto Orellana, the sixth journalist killed in the country since March.

Orellana, 50, host of the program “En vivo con Georgino” (Georgino Live) at the local private station Televisión de Honduras, was shot to death on Tuesday by an unidentified gunman in the city of San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, according to local news accounts. As the journalist was leaving the station around 9 p.m., the attacker shot him in the head and fled on foot, the local newspaper Tiempo reported. The journalist was taken to Hospital Mario Rivas, where he was pronounced dead.

Orellana’s program focused on local news, mostly related to cultural events, José Peraza, a reporter with Radio Progreso in San Pedro Sula, told CPJ. He did not report on sensitive information such as organized crime, Tiempo Editor Rubén Escobar said.

Hector Iván Mejía, chief of the San Pedro Sula police, told CPJ that personal motives may have been behind the killing. Mejía, who did not specify those possible motives, said police had identified a suspect, who was still at large. CPJ is investigating whether the murder was related to the journalist’s work.

Before joining Televisión de Honduras, Orellana had worked for the newspaper La Prensa and the country’s leading network Televicentro, Honduran media reports said. After the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, Orellana left Televicentro because of discomfort with the station’s editorial position in favor of the interim government, local reporters said. Orellana was also a journalism professor at the National University of Honduras, in San Pedro Sula.

“We urge Honduran authorities to fully investigate the murder of journalist Jorge Orellana, establish if he was killed for his work, and bring those responsible to justice,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “The authorities must take swift and decisive action to stop this wave of deadly violence that is seriously limiting the media’s ability to report the news”

Orellana is the sixth journalist killed in Honduras since the beginning of March. Unidentified attackers gunned down journalists José Bayardo Mairena and Manuel Juárez in the department of Olancho on March 27. On March 14, journalist Nahúm Palacios Arteaga was killed in the city of Tocoa, while radio reporter David Meza was slain in the city of La Ceiba on March 11. On March 1, reporter Joseph Hernández Ochoa was killed in Tegucigalpa in a shooting that left another journalist seriously wounded.

CPJ is investigating the killings to determine whether they were work-related.