Another Journalist Gunned Down in Honduras

Luz Marina Paz is the First Female Reporter Murdered in the Country since 2010

Forensic workers carry the body of journalist Luz Marina Paz, shot dead in her car together with her driver, in Tegucigalpa December 6, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Ramirez

By Mariela Hoyer Guerrero, Press Freedom Adviser for Latin America & The Caribbean

VIENNA, 7 Dec. 2011 – Journalist Luz Marina Paz Villalobos was killed yesterday morning in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, according to news reports. Her driver and cousin, Delmer Osmar Canales Gutiérrez, also died when two men on a motorcycle intercepted their car and riddled them with dozens of bullets.

Paz Villalobos was the director of the program “Three in the News”, broadcast on the Honduras News Channel (CHN). She was murdered on her way to work.  According to the police, the victims were being followed, but the motive of the crime was unclear.

Paz Villalobos was the mother of two girls and the owner of a small business. AFP reported that she had been threatened by an extortion gang after refusing to pay protection money.

Villalobos studied at the National Autonomous University of Honduras and worked at Radio Globo for several years before recently moving to CHN. The Washington Post reported that in her previous program she had been critical of the 2009 coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

According to the IPI Death Watch, Paz Villalobos is the 16th journalist killed in Honduras since the beginning of 2010, but the first female on the list. This year, five reporters have been murdered so far in the country. The last one was Medardo Flores, whose car was also intercepted by gunmen, on 8 September.

Anthony Mills, IPI Press Freedom & Communications Manager said: “We offer our condolences to Paz Villalobos’ family. The Honduran authorities must investigate this killing as a matter of urgency. Honduran journalists are caught in a deadly spiral of killing and impunity. It is the responsibility of the government to combat this grim phenomenon.”

Juan Ramón Mairena, president of the Honduran Guild of Journalists, told La Tribuna newspaper that journalism in the country was at risk, but that nothing was being done to solve the problem. He announced a demonstration for 9 December in San Pedro Sula to condemn the crimes against media workers, and claimed that journalists did not have access to a freedom of expression event currently being held by the government.

Paz Villalobos’ murder followed an attack against La Tribuna’s headquarters, on 5 December. Armed men shot at the newspaper’s offices and wounded a security guard, José Manuel Izaguirre. Daniel Villeda, the daily's editor-in-chief, told C-Libre that the harassment and attacks were linked to published investigative articles about police officers accused of having committed a murder.