New York, August 19, 2014 — The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of broadcast journalist Nery Francisco Soto Torres in Honduras on Thursday and calls on authorities to launch a full investigation, determine the motive, and bring those responsible to justice.
Soto was shot dead at about 9:30 p.m. by gunmen waiting outside his home in the town of Olanchito in Yoro state, according to news reports. He had returned home early from Canal 23, where he hosted a news program, because of a power outage, according to news reports. Soto was also the co-producer of the program “Cuarto Poder” (Fourth Estate) on Radio Full FM.
The Honduran daily La Prensa said local journalists had questioned whether Soto’s recent reporting for Canal 23 on issues including the widespread and frequent power outages in Olanchito, which is a sensitive subject for government figures and electric companies, could be tied to the crime. However, two local journalists who were friends of Soto and who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told CPJ that all media outlets in Olanchito had reported on the electricity problems, and said they did not think that it would have led to someone ordering his murder.
The two journalists said that Soto was well-liked and respected, and that he was careful not to be confrontational or to cross any lines in his reporting. Both journalists told CPJ that the local press were baffled by the crime and that they were questioning the motive behind it. One journalist said one of the hypotheses was that Soto’s murder was a message to Canal 23 because other journalists at the station had reported critically on sensitive issues such as corruption and organized crime. Another theory was that the gunmen had confused Soto with another journalist who was his neighbor and resembled him, the two reporters told CPJ. Neither journalist had ever heard Soto say he had received threats.
Local authorities said they had ruled out robbery as a possible motive, but they did not believe the crime was related to Soto’s reporting, according to news reports.
A climate of violence and widespread impunity has made Honduras one of the most dangerous countries in the region in recent years, according to CPJ research. Members of the Honduran press have repeatedly faced attacks and intimidation, particularly journalists who cover sensitive topics such as drug trafficking, government corruption, and land conflicts. Faulty and negligent investigations have made it difficult to determine the motives in the murders of journalists, according to CPJ research.
“Authorities must fully investigate the murder of Nery Francisco Soto Torres, including the possibility of a link to his reporting, and bring those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The fact that the murders of reporters are seldom solved in Honduras, and the motives never established, has created a climate of widespread fear among journalists and weakened the ability of the press to report on sensitive issues.”