Amsterdam, September 4, 2019—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the killing of Edgar Joel Aguilar, a reporter and presenter for Cablemar TV, and urged the Honduran authorities to conduct a rigorous investigation and bring those responsible to justice.
On August 31, two unidentified men entered a barbershop that Aguilar visited every Saturday in the town of La Entrada in Copán, western Honduras, and shot the journalist, Cablemar TV news director Carlos Chinchilla told CPJ via phone.
Aguilar covered general news, including local crime and violence, for Cablemar TV and worked as a regional correspondent for Channel 6, a national news broadcaster, according to Chinchilla and local reports.
A police spokesperson in Copán said that Aguilar had requested protection the day before he was killed, as he feared for his life due to threats, the news website Criterio reported. The spokesperson did not provide further details.
Danilo Morales, director of the national protection mechanism for journalists, told the news website Reporteros de Investigación that the mechanism was “never informed of threats to his person."
CPJ’s calls to Morales went unanswered. The director did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via a messaging app.
"Honduran authorities must take swift action to investigate the killing of Edgar Joel Aguilar, bring those responsible to justice and commit to guaranteeing the safety of journalists under threat," said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. "Proactive steps to protect journalists and bring their killers to justice are the only way to combat the pervasive impunity in Honduras, where those who threaten journalists rarely face consequences."
Aguilar, 39, had worked as a journalist in the region for 19 years and was well known, Chinchilla said. He added, “[Aguilar] used to work in radio and had a significant social base of popularity. He had a lot of people who supported him in the region."
Chinchilla said that the journalist also regularly received threats over his crime coverage and confrontational reporting style.
The news director told CPJ that on August 13, a group of men came to the news station in Copán and tried to attack the journalist after Chinchilla reported on illegal moto-taxis. “They had tubes and bats and wanted to beat him up, but fortunately, we were able to calm them down,” Chinchilla said, adding that the incident was reported to police.
In 2017, the Honduran free expression organization C-Libre reported that Aguilar received death threats through the WhatsApp messaging network. And in 2012, unidentified individuals shot at a vehicle in which Aguilar was traveling, according to an August 31 National Human Rights Commissioner statement about his death.
At least six journalists have been murdered in direct retaliation for their work in Honduras since 1992, including Valle TV reporter Leonardo Gabriel Hernández, who was killed in March, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating a further 22 cases, not including Aguilar, to determine if journalism was a motive in the killing.