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London, 12 February 2015

The murder of TV journalist Carlos Fernández on 5 February 2015 is an alarming reminder that the wave of deadly violence against media professionals in Honduras continues unabated, PEN International said today. Fernández is the first journalist to be killed in 2015 and the second in less than two months, following the fatal shooting of TV host Reynaldo Paz Mayes on 15 December 2014.

Ahead of a forthcoming mission to Honduras, from 14-16 February 2015, PEN International calls on the Honduran authorities to carry out a swift and thorough investigation into the killings of Fernández and Paz – and all other unsolved journalist murders – and to bring the perpetrators to justice as a matter of utmost urgency.

“It’s unconscionable that 46 journalists have now lost their lives in Honduras since 2003 and yet in only four of these cases have the investigations led to successful prosecutions – an impunity rate of 91 per cent,” said Carles Torner, executive director of PEN International. “We urge Honduras to honour its international pledges to protect journalists and combat impunity for attacks on journalists.”

Host of Canal 27’s news programme ‘Ciudad Desnuda,’ Carlos Fernández, was shot dead as he made his way home on the island of Roatán, Bahia Islands, after broadcasting his news programme on 5 February 2015. He was shot at least three times in the chest and head. An investigation is reportedly being carried out by the Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation (Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal – ATIC), who attended the scene on 6 February. The police are believed to be exploring all lines of enquiry at this stage.

Fernández, aged 54, was an active member of the Alert Network for the Protection of Journalists and Social Communicators (Red de Alertas y Protección a Periodistas y Comunicadores Sociales – RAPCOS). In 2013 he stood as a candidate in the mayoral election as a representative of the Alianza Patriótica political party. Fernández reportedly also worked as a car salesman and money-lender.

Reynaldo Paz Mayes, owner of regional TV station RPM TV Canal 28 and host of a daily and weekly news programme, died on 15 December 2014 after being shot twice in the back in a sports centre in Comayagua, Comayagua department. The High Social Impact Crimes Unit of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Life (Unidad de Muertes de Alto Impacto Social del Fiscal Especial de Delitos Contra La Vida – FEDCV) is reported to be investigating the case in coordination with Comayagua’s regional public prosecutor’s office. Police reportedly believe that Paz was killed for his pistol, which was not found at the scene.

Paz, aged 48 at the time of his death, had received threats in the weeks running up to his death in connection with both his political beliefs and his reporting on his programme, which touched on issues such as impunity, criticism of the 2009 coup d’état and his overt support of the Liberty and Refoundation (Libertad y Refundación – LIBRE) political party, of which he was a member. The channel also featured items on sports, music, and entertainment shows.

Background

The current and previous governments of Honduras have displayed a consistent lack of political will to investigate the murder of and other attacks against journalists. State institutions are marred by corruption and abuse, while state agents were implicated in up to 50 per cent of all attacks on freedom of expression in 2013 where the perpetrators could be identified.

As result, PEN International has intensified its campaigning for the security of journalists in Honduras in recent years. In October 2014 at its 80th Congress, PEN’s Assembly of Delegates passed a resolution urging the Honduran government to protect journalists and human rights defenders, better support the arts and humanities and to decriminalise defamation.

In January 2014, PEN International published a report Honduras: Journalism in the Shadow of Impunity, jointly with PEN Canada and the International Human Rights Program (IHRP)  of University of Toronto Faculty of Law, on the strength of which it testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 2012, Honduras was a main focus of PEN’s Write Against Impunity campaign and anthology.

A PEN-IHRP shadow report submitted to the UN ahead of its review of Honduras’ human rights record in May this year recommends that Honduras take urgent measures to ensure the safety of its journalists and writers, including by implementing a new protection law and enforcing existing protection measures.

It must ensure the prompt and thorough investigation of all crimes against writers and journalists, increase resources to human rights institutions and review its laws restricting freedom of expression.  Finally, it should develop a comprehensive and inclusive national policy for culture and the arts. (To read the full recommendations, see the executive summary or full report.)

These concerns around freedom of expression and journalist safety will form the focus of PEN International’s forthcoming mission to Honduras, from 14-16 February 2015, led by its International President John Ralston Saul and Executive Director Carles Torner and including delegates form PEN Canada and the IHRP. PEN International will meet with members of the newly established PEN Honduras Centre, the media and state officials.

The delegation to Honduras is the first stage in a three-part PEN mission to Central America, which will also include Nicaragua and Mexico.

For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: tamsin.mitchell@pen-international.org


Note to editors:

PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International – PEN’s Secretariat – connects an international community of writers. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. PEN International is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088. www.pen-international.org

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