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Motorcycle gunmen kill journalist in Honduras

September 29, 2020

A Honduran journalist who was a sharp government critic has been killed in a drive-by shooting, police said Monday, bringing the number of reporters killed in the country to 85 in two decades.

Luis Almendares, 35, was visiting a store in Comayagua, 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa, when he was shot multiple times on Sunday.

“He was intercepted by two individuals on a motorcycle, who shot him repeatedly,” police said in a statement.

The journalist was taken to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and died early Monday, according to Amada Ponce, director of the Committee for Free Expression.

Almendares, a freelancer who used social media to criticize the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, had repeatedly complained to police and the country’s National Protection System over receiving death threats, the rights group said.

The government set up the National Protection System in 2015 in response to concerns expressed by the Organization of American States and the UN over the high number of killings involving rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.

The president of the Honduran association of journalists, Dagoberto Rodriguez, announced his group was withdrawing from the protection system in reaction to Almendares’s death.

“The government has let this system go off course by giving it neither logistical nor financial means,” Rodriguez said.

He slammed the impunity of those responsible for murdering journalists and members of the media, saying “the government shows that it is not interested.”

In June, a journalist and his cameraman were shot dead in the Caribbean port of La Ceiba. Two gang members were arrested as suspects in that killing.

However, Ponce told AFP that more than 90 percent of the 85 murders of journalists carried out in Honduras since 2001 have gone unpunished.

The United Nations human rights commissioner’s Honduras office “urged the Honduran state to conduct an independent, prompt, effective and impartial investigation” into Almendares’s killing.

The presidents of the Inter American Press Association and the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information also expressed their outrage, noting that 15 other journalists have been murdered in the Americas since the start of 2020.

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Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.