Miami, September 29, 2020 — Honduran authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Luis Alonzo Almendares, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 6 p.m. on September 27, in the central Honduran city of Comayagua, two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle shot Almendares, a local freelance journalist, three times and then fled the scene; bystanders brought the journalist to a local hospital, and he was then transferred to the Escuela Universitario hospital in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, where he died yesterday morning, according to news reports and a report by Honduran free expression organization C-Libre.
Almendares posted his local news reporting to his Facebook page, where he identified himself as “The Voice of the Comayaguans.” He had more than 40,000 followers, and frequently reported on alleged corruption and mismanagement by local officials.
In a meeting with the press yesterday, Carlos González, chief of the National Police in Comayagua, said that an investigation was underway and that he hoped the case would be resolved shortly, according to audio of that press briefing reviewed by CPJ.
“Honduran authorities must do everything in their power to conduct a credible investigation into the killing of journalist Luis Alonzo Almendares, determine whether it was related to his work, and prosecute those responsible,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Violence against journalists is happening with terrifying frequency in Honduras, and impunity prevails in almost all cases. The government must act urgently to show that the killers of journalists will be held to account.”
After the attack, Almendares streamed a brief video on Facebook live, where he can be heard saying that he was shot and asking for help from passersby.
According to C-Libre representative Cesario Padilla, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, Almendares had repeatedly contacted the press freedom group about various threats he had received in response to his coverage since 2017, including death threats.
A local journalist who knew Almendares and who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns, said that Almendares “denounced acts of corruption from various local authorities in Comayagua, and was very critical about how the COVID-19 aid had been distributed.”
The journalist suggested that the attack may have been connected to a video that Almendares posted to Facebook on September 23, which showed an alleged killing committed by someone driving a car with police lights. The Honduran Journalists Union, a local press association, tweeted a link to that video, saying that it should be “a starting point” for the investigation into Almendares’ killing.
Earlier this year, on July 1, two unidentified individuals shot and killed German Vallecillo Jr., a host for the local privately owned TV station Canal 45, in an attack that also killed Jorge Posas, a camera operator and technician at the station, while they drove in the northeastern Honduran city of La Ceiba, as CPJ documented at the time.
Since 1992, at least seven 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.
Reached via messaging app, National Police spokesperson Jair Meza told CPJ that the investigation was ongoing and no suspects had been detained as of today.