Honduran TV journalist murdered

New York, January 19, 2017–Honduran authorities should thoroughly investigate the killing of Honduran television reporter Igor Abisaí Padilla Chávez and bring all those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Four unidentified assailants shot and killed Padilla on January 17 in the Suyapa neighborhood of the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, according to news reports.

Padilla, 38, covered general news and crime for the television station HCH (Hable como Habla, or “Speak as You Speak”) and directed the comedy program “Los Verduleros” (“The Greengrocers”), which appeared on the same station. Police last night arrested 18 suspects they alleged were part of the criminal gang Barrio 18 on suspicion of involvement in the murder, according to news reports. The reports included no indication of a possible motive.

“Honduran authorities must do everything in their power to conduct a credible investigation into the murder of Igor Abisaí Padilla Chávez and prosecute those responsible,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Incomplete investigations into the murder of journalists send a message that the media can be targeted with impunity.”

Honduran news reports said that Padilla received a call from a woman who asked him to step outside while he was filming a commercial at a local store. When Padilla went outside, four armed assailants shot him repeatedly. He was rushed to a local private clinic, where doctors pronounced him dead, HCH reported on its Facebook page.

The owner of HCH, Eduardo Maldonado, told the Honduran daily newspaper El Heraldo that he was unaware of any threats against Padilla. “We asked him if he felt threatened because of his work, and he said, ‘No,'” Maldonado told the newspaper. CPJ’s phone calls to HCH went unanswered.

The Honduran newspaper La Prensa cited friends of the slain journalist as saying that the reporter had received a written death threat before the attack. CPJ was unable to verify this claim.

HCH, on its Facebook page, quoted Ricardo Castro, the director of the Technical Agency for Criminal Investigation, as calling the crime “very planned.” “There is no doubt that Igor Padilla was the objective. Fifteen minutes after [the attack], we dispatched various teams to begin the investigation,” HCH quoted Castro as saying.

Police at the First Station of the National Police in San Pedro Sula told CPJ that those in charge of the investigation were not available to comment.

Padilla’s final news report before his death, published on HCH’s YouTube channel yesterday, was a routine report about three separate local arrests. The daily La Tribuna characterized Padilla as being highly critical of the government and of local authorities.

A 2014 CPJ report found that organized crime and corruption in Honduras have produced an alarming rate of unsolved cases of violence against journalists.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The text has been modified in the first paragraph to correct the spelling of the Suyapa neighborhood.