Paz, 48, was exercising in an outdoor sporting complex in the city of Comayagua in central Honduras when unidentified gunmen shot him twice in the back, according to news reports. Paz was the owner and founder of a small local television station, RPM TV Canal 28, where he also hosted a daily and weekly news program, according to news reports.
Local journalists told CPJ on Tuesday that despite having no background in journalism, Paz had founded the television station two years ago and used his news programs to voice support for the opposition political party LIBRE and to criticize the 2009 coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya. The channel featured news, sports, music, and entertainment shows, according to its Facebook page.
Juan Ramón Flores, owner of the television station CTV Canal 48 and president of the city chapter of LIBRE, told CPJ that Paz had received threats for years in connection with his political beliefs and, most recently, in relation to his on-air criticism of President Juan Orlando Hernández, who he accused of having undue influence over all branches of government. Flores said the most recent threats had been made in anonymous phone calls the week before the shooting. Paz had talked about the threats on his program, Flores said.
Two journalists from Comayagua, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told CPJ that many news outlets criticized the government. One journalist said she did not believe Paz’s death was related to his journalism. The other said he did not know whether the murder was related to opinions Paz had shared on the news program.
The day after the murder, the national attorney general’s office for high impact crimes announced it would conduct a joint investigation of the murder with the local Comayagua state prosecutor’s office, according to news reports. The same day, at Paz’s funeral, the journalist’s wife, Liliana Cecilia Zepeda, said her husband had received threats during on-air calls to his news program in relation to his criticism of both the president and local issues, according to news reports. She said her husband did not elaborate about the threats or his problems so as not to worry her.
Amid pervasive violence and instability caused by organized crime and corruption, Honduras has experienced an alarming rise in unsolved, anti-press violence, according to a CPJ special report published in September 2014. Faulty and negligent investigations have made it difficult to determine the motives in the murders of journalists.