On July 1, 2020, two unidentified individuals shot German Vallecillo Jr., a host for the local privately owned TV station Canal 45, and Jorge Posas, a camera operator and technician at the station, while they drove in the residential area of El Naranjal, in the northeastern Honduran 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.
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.
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.
On July 6, authorities arrested Edward David Zalavarria Galeas, who was named the second suspect for the crime, according to reports.
Honduran Police told La Prensa that Zelaya and Zalavarria are allegedly members of criminal groups involved in drug trafficking in La Ceiba, and that they believe the suspects killed Vallecillo Jr. because of his coverage of drug-related issues.
According to German Vallecillo Sr., his son, who was killed on his 41st birthday, 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.
Vallecillo Jr. had also recently announced his intention to run as an independent candidate for mayor in La Ceiba, his father told CPJ.
Dina Meza, director of the Association for Democracy and Human Rights, a local human rights organization, told CPJ via email that the organization considers that the journalists were killed because of their profession.
“There is still no official investigation that directly tells us that, but everything indicates that it was because of their work,” Meza said.