Nery Francisco Soto Torres was shot dead at about 9:30 p.m. by gunmen waiting outside his home in the town of Olanchito in Yoro state, according to news reports. He had returned home early from Canal 23, where he hosted a news program, because of a power outage, according to news reports. Soto was also the co-producer of the program “Cuarto Poder” (Fourth Estate) on Radio Full FM.
The Honduran daily La Prensa said local journalists had questioned whether Soto’s recent reporting for Canal 23 on issues including widespread and frequent power outages in Olanchito, which is a sensitive subject for government figures and electric companies, could be tied to the crime. However, two local journalists who were friends with Soto and who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told CPJ that all media outlets in Olanchito had reported on the electricity problems, and said they did not think it would have led to someone ordering his murder.
The two journalists said that Soto was well liked and respected, and that he was careful not to be confrontational or to cross any lines in his reporting. Both journalists told CPJ that the local press were baffled by the crime and that they were questioning the motive. One journalist said one of the hypotheses was that Soto’s murder was a message to Canal 23 because other journalists at the station had reported critically on sensitive issues such as corruption and organized crime. Another theory was that the gunmen had confused Soto with another journalist who was his neighbor and resembled him, the two reporters told CPJ. Neither journalist had ever heard Soto say he had received threats.
Local authorities said they had ruled out robbery as a possible motive, but they did not believe the crime was related to Soto’s reporting, according to news reports. On August 24, two men suspected of carrying out and being involved in the murder were arrested, according to news reports, but the authorities did not provide details about a possible motive.