Foresnsic authorities are seen on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on May 24, 2020. Unidentified shooters recenty killed journalists German Vallecillo Jr. and Jorge Posas. (Reuters/Jorge Cabrera)

Unidentified attackers shoot and kill 2 journalists in Honduras

Managua, Nicaragua, July 8, 2020 – Honduran authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalists German Vallecillo Jr. and Jorge Posas, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On July 1, two unidentified individuals shot Vallecillo Jr., a host for the local privately owned TV station Canal 45, and Posas, a camera operator and technician at the station, while they drove in the residential area of El Naranjal, in the northeastern city of La Ceiba, according to news reports.

According to German Vallecillo Sr., the victim’s father, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, the two journalists were returning to the station after lunch when the two individuals shot them and ran away. Both journalists died at the scene, according to a report by Honduran newspaper La Prensa.

On July 4, police arrested five suspects in the attack, including Ramón David Zelaya Hernández, according to another report by La Prensa. Police later released the other suspects but held Zelaya, and named him as a prime suspect in the case, according to that report. Authorities also issued another arrest warrant for a suspect whose name was not released, according to La Prensa.

“Honduran authorities should thoroughly investigate the killings of German Vallecillo Jr. and Jorge Posas and determine if they were attacked for their journalism,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “The Honduran government must put an end to the pervasive impunity that has prevailed in the killings of journalists and ensure a swift and exhaustive investigation that brings those responsible to justice.”

Rossel Posas, Jorge Posas’ uncle and a colleague of both journalists at Canal 45, told CPJ in a phone interview that the attackers fired 12 shots at the car, mostly aiming at Vallecillo Jr.

“One of the bullets hit Jorge, who was next to him,” Posas said.

According to German Vallecillo Sr., his son was a well-known TV host who mostly covered local news for Canal 45 and was also the director of the radio station Sterero92. Vallecillo Sr. told CPJ that although his son had received threats about his work in the past, they had stopped in recent months.

Rossel Posas told CPJ that his nephew had worked at Canal 45 for 16 years and that he did not believe he had received any threats.

Juan Carlos Palacios, head of the Directorate of Police Investigations in La Ceiba, told La Prensa that police had found an eyewitness who named Zelaya as one of the shooters. Palacios told the paper that investigators are considering various motives for the attack, including Vallecillo and Posas’ work as journalists.

Vallecillo Jr. had also recently announced his intention to run as an independent candidate for mayor in La Ceiba, his father told CPJ.

Jair Meza, a spokesperson for the National Police of Honduras, told CPJ yesterday via phone that authorities have issued two more arrest warrants for suspects in the killings.

“At the moment, we are not following just one hypothesis, but we are working with a witness to find the culprits. The investigation is progressing, and we are working with the Public Ministry to present the evidence as soon as possible,” Meza said.

Since 1992, at least six journalists have been killed in Honduras in direct relation to their work, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating more than 20 other cases to determine if journalism was a motive in the killing.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its second and third paragraphs to correct the time of the attack against the journalists.