News presenter Víctor Yobani Fúnez Solís was shot and killed outside his house in the port city of La Ceiba in northern Honduras, in the early hours of June 15, 2017. He was 45.
A security camera captured Fúnez’s murder, which took place at 4:29 a.m. when he returned home from a night out with friends at a bar, according to the newspaper, El Heraldo. The footage shows an armed individual approaching Fúnez and firing multiple shots as the journalist walks from his car to the entrance of his home in the La Gloria neighborhood. Fúnez was hit at least twice by the bullets and died immediately, according to reports.
The attacker is seen searching Fúnez’s pockets and removing something before fleeing on a motorcycle. The journalist’s wallet, ID and bank cards were found discarded on the ground three days later in a remote area of La Ceiba, according to reports.
Less than six hours after the murder, police arrested Edwin Reniery Suazo Cruz, 23, seized the gun and motorcycle allegedly used in Fúnez’s murder, and charged him with aggravated robbery and murder. Police described Suazo to journalists as a hitman and local drug dealer. In a video circulated on social media later that afternoon, Suazo, alias “El Pájaro” (“The Bird”), is seen with blood on his head, appearing to confess to an officer that he killed Fúnez. The next day, as he was being taken to a preliminary hearing in the back of a pickup truck, Suazo told journalists he is innocent and said that police beat him and forced him to confess, according to news reports.
On June 15, Security Minister Julián Pacheco Tinoco announced the creation of a special team to investigate the motive behind Fúnez’s murder. Deputy Commissioner César Mendoza, the chief of police in northern Honduras, told media the police are investigating two lines of inquiry, but did not provide any additional information.
Fúnez, known by his nickname, “El Masa,” hosted “Informe Nocturno,” a news program that aired from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on 45TV, a local channel in La Ceiba, according to Tiempo Digital. A colleague from 45TV, who asked not to be named out of concern for his safety, told CPJ that Fúnez worked as a journalist for about two decades, beginning in radio before moving to television around 2009. Local reports described him as a widely beloved figure who was actively involved in the community, and hundreds of mourners filled the streets for his funeral.
Honduran press freedom organization C-Libre reported that Fúnez received “almost daily” threats from unidentified persons. Fúnez’s colleague described one series of threats in April 2016, after Fúnez aired a video of security footage in which a woman is seen shooting a local bus driver. Fúnez received multiple calls threatening him with violence or death if he continued reporting on the story, his colleague told CPJ.
In addition to his work as a journalist, Fúnez was the governing National Party’s candidate to represent the Atlántida department in congressional elections slated for November 2017.