Honduran radio reporter shot in latest journalist murder

New York, August 25, 2010–Honduran radio reporter Israel Zelaya Díaz was found shot to death on Tuesday along a rural road near the northern city of San Pedro Sula, the latest in an alarming string of journalist murders in the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Honduran authorities today to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into Zelaya’s killing.

Zelaya, 56, a radio reporter for the San Pedro Sula-based broadcaster Radio Internacional, was last seen alive on Tuesday around 2 p.m. as he was talking with a man in a taxi at a gas station, the daily Tiempo reported. Local police found Zelaya’s body later that day with two bullet wounds to the head and one to the chest, according to press reports. Honduran authorities have not yet disclosed possible motives or identified any suspects in the case.

Zelaya had not mentioned receiving recent threats, but his home was damaged in a fire of undetermined origin three months ago, according to Radio Internacional colleagues Carlos Rodríguez Panting and Jesús Vélez Vanegas. Zelaya reported on a wide range of local topics, including politics and crime, but he was not involved in investigative work, his colleagues told CPJ.

Eight journalists–including Zelaya–have been killed since March in Honduras, at least three in direct reprisal for their work, CPJ research shows. In July, a CPJ special report found a pattern of botched and negligent investigative work into the killings. Government officials have sought to minimize the crimes and play down the pervasive climate of impunity in the country, Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas, wrote on the CPJ Blog this month. CPJ is investigating Zelaya’s killing to determine whether it was related to his work.

“Honduran authorities must swiftly investigate Zelaya’s murder, and bring all those responsible to justice,” said Lauría. “With eight journalists now dead this year, the government must commit to thoroughly investigating all the cases, which up to now it has failed to do.”