New York, July 18, 2011–Journalist Nery Geremías Orellana was shot and killed Thursday in the western state of Lempira, near Honduras’ border with El Salvador, according to local news reports. Orellana was the manager of the local radio station Radio Joconguera and a correspondent for Christian-oriented station Radio Progreso. He was also an active member of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), an organization that formed in opposition to the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras, the group said.
Orellana, 26, was riding his motorcycle to work when he was intercepted by unknown assailants who shot him in the head, the Honduran press reported. He was found alive on the road between the towns of San Lorenzo and Candelaria and after being brought to a local clinic, was transported to a nearby hospital in El Salvador, where he later died, the press said.
While Radio Joconguera is primarily devoted to music, Orellana had regularly given airtime to the Catholic Church’s masses and the FNRP, the press said. Orellana also coordinated a news program for the station that regularly denounced local corruption, according to Father José Amilcar, a priest in Candelaria who has criticized the coup and worked with the journalist. Amilcar told CPJ that he and Orellana, along with another employee of Radio Joconguera, had all recently received anonymous death threats via text message and had been heckled on the street. Amilcar said that he thought the journalist’s death might have been “a message to the rest of us to make us keep quiet.”
“Since the coup, an alarmingly high number of journalists have been killed in Honduras but few perpetrators have been brought to justice,” said CPJ’s deputy director, Robert Mahoney. “Authorities must investigate the murder of Nery Geremías Orellana examine all possible motives, including his journalism.”
It is time for them to bring an end to the record level of violence against the press in Honduras.”
CPJ has recorded a string of recent attacks on journalists throughout the country. On May 20, media owner Luis Ernesto Mendoza Cerrato was shot and killed by three hooded men armed with AK-47s in the city of Danlí, El Paraíso province. Three days later, unknown gunmen shot and wounded Manuel Acosta Medina, the general manager of a Honduran newspaper. Provincial television journalist Héctor Francisco Medina Polanco was gunned down on May 11 in the northern province of Yoro. In April, director of San Pedro Sula-based Radio Uno Arnulfo Aguilar was ambushed by a group of armed men outside his home. In March, at least seven journalists, all covering the around a month-long teachers’ protest faced harassment, attack, and detention, CPJ reports. Earlier that month, Radio Voz de Zacate Grande director Fanklin Mendez was shot in the leg over the station’s critical coverage of land disputes in the area.
Twelve Honduran journalists, including Nery Geremías Orellana, have been murdered since March 2010, at least three in direct reprisal for their work, CPJ research shows. A 2010 CPJ special report found a pattern of botched and negligent investigative work into the killings.