Rivas, owner of the local TV station Corporación Maya Visión-Canal 7, was murdered outside his station’s studios in the western city of Santa Rosa de Copán, near the border between Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
The murder occurred at around 6:30 p.m., several minutes before his station’s news program was about to begin, according to local news reports. When Rivas exited his car, an unidentified gunman shot him in the head and fled.
The police suspect that several accomplices were waiting for the hit man in a car, according to the Tegucigalpa daily El Heraldo. Police are pursuing several possible motives in the investigation, including that Rivas was killed for his journalistic work. Authorities have identified three individuals who allegedly committed the murder, but arrest warrants for the suspects have not yet been issued, the Tegucigalpa daily La Prensa reported.
In addition to his duties as owner of Corporación Maya Visión, Rivas was the director of the daily news program “CMV Noticias” (CMV News). The program, which is broadcast between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., also airs on radio station Estéreo Maya Visión, which Rivas and his wife own.
Before he was murdered, Rivas survived a shooting on February 24. That evening, unidentified assailants attacked the journalist outside his house when he arrived home after finishing his station’s daily news program, he told CPJ after the incident. When Rivas exited the car to open the garage door, the attacker, who was hidden, fired a single shot and fled. The shot missed Rivas, hitting the pavement. Rivas then went into his house and called the police, who arrived about 20 minutes later. Officers examined the area but left soon because it became too dark to search. Two people, including a neighborhood guard, witnessed the attack.
The next day, Rivas and the neighborhood guard looked for evidence, found a gun that appeared to have been used in the shooting, and turned it over to police. Officers told Rivas it was a .30-caliber weapon. They sent it to a lab in the capital, Tegucigalpa, for ballistic tests. The test results were never announced, and the weapon used in the attack remains in a Tegucigalpa lab.
The journalist told CPJ he believed that the attack was linked to his journalistic work and cited several sensitive stories that his station had covered. In September 2002, the station’s investigative journalism team reported on the smuggling of coffee and cattle from Honduras to Guatemala. (The segment was dropped in December 2002 after the sponsor canceled its contract.) The station has also extensively covered local neighborhood associations that have denounced a local mining company for spilling cyanide into Copán Department’s Lara River. The night of the February attack, Rivas said, the station reported that the Honduran government had ordered the mining company to pay a fine of 1 million lempiras (US$60,000).
Félix Molina, deputy coordinator of the Honduran freedom of expression organization Comité para la Libertad de Expresión, said that although the station’s crime reporting was not very aggressive, the fact that it covered crime at all could have provoked retaliation.
Rivas, who said he had no enemies, did not have any particular suspects for the February shooting. The day after the attack, he filed a complaint with the General Department of Criminal Investigations, part of the Ministry of Security. Rivas complained that the police had not offered the protection he requested.