Ángel Alfredo Villatoro (AP/HRN Radio)
Ángel Alfredo Villatoro (AP/HRN Radio)

Kidnapped Honduran journalist found dead

New York, May 16, 2012–The body of Honduran radio journalist Ángel Alfredo Villatoro was found Tuesday in the capital city Tegucigalpa, according to news reports. Villatoro had been kidnapped from his car early on the morning of May 9.

“We are saddened by the death of journalist Ángel Alfredo Villatoro and send our condolences to his friends, family, and colleagues,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Honduran authorities must fully investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice. The deadly cycle of violence against journalists and impunity for these crimes is endangering freedom of expression in Honduras.”

Villatoro, 47, was a prominent host and news coordinator at HRN, one of Honduras’s most widely listened-to radio stations. His body was found on a sidewalk Tuesday night dressed in the uniform of a special operations police unit and with a red handkerchief covering his face, according to news reports. The journalist had two gunshot wounds to the head. Neighbors reported hearing gunshots in the area a few hours before the body was discovered.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Porfirio Lobo told journalists that the kidnappers had sent a “proof of life” video with images of Villatoro. Today, he clarified that the images were from Saturday, according to news reports. News accounts said the journalist’s family had received a demand for ransom. Héctor Ivan Mejía, spokesman for the national police, told journalists there were many possible theories but that nothing was confirmed and that police would continue to investigate.

A climate of violence and widespread impunity has made Honduras one of the most dangerous countries in the region, according to CPJ research. The government’s stance on media killings has worsened the situation. Authorities have minimized crimes against journalists and been slow and negligent in pursuing the culprits. CPJ documented two other attacks on journalists in the past three weeks.