At about 6 p.m. on September 27, 2020, in the central Honduran city of Comayagua, two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle shot Luis Alonzo 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 the next 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 on September 28, 2020, 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.
After the attack, Almendares streamed a brief video on Facebook live, in which 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, 2020, that showed an alleged killing committed by someone driving a car with police lights. The day after he was killed, 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.
On October 2, 2020, the prosecutor’s office conducted several raids in the city of Comayagua, purportedly to collect evidence in Almendares’ case, according to press reports. That day, National Police spokesperson Jair Meza told La Prensa that “there is progress and we are waiting for arrest warrants to be issued.” As of October 15, 2020, there have been no reports of any arrests.
Reached via messaging app on September 29, 2020, Meza told CPJ that the investigation was ongoing and no suspects had been detained. On October 15, CPJ reached out to Meza via messaging app for an update on the case. He responded that evidence collected in the raids was being analyzed, that a hypothesis for the case was still being worked on, and that there had been no arrests.