Managua, Nicaragua, July 19, 2020–Honduran journalist David Romero Ellner died yesterday around 7 a.m. of respiratory failure after contracting COVID-19 while imprisoned at the Támara National Penitentiary, according to newspaper La Prensa. Authorities had transferred Romero to the National Cardiopulmonary Institute on July 5, according to newspaper El Heraldo.
“We are shocked and saddened by the news of the death yesterday of Honduran journalist David Romero, who should have never been imprisoned for his reporting,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “As CPJ has warned for months, authorities who continue to imprison journalists in unsafe conditions in the midst of a global pandemic are effectively allowing these convictions to become a death sentence.”
Romero was the director of the media outlets Radio Globo and Globo TV. In January 2019, Honduras’ Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court’s conviction and sentencing on charges that Romero defamed former prosecutor Sonia Inez Gálvez Ferrari in his journalistic work, as CPJ reported at the time. In March 2019, Romero was arrested and began serving his 10-year sentence for slander and defamation.
CPJ emailed the Honduran Secretariat for the Protection of Human Rights asking for comment on Romero but did not receive a reply.
In its #FreeThePress campaign, CPJ and more than 190 groups earlier this year urged world leaders to release all journalists imprisoned for their work because of the threat of contracting COVID-19 in jail.