Amid escalating press violence, search for kidnapped Honduran journalist proceeds

In addition to the kidnapping of Honduran journalist Alfredo Villatoro, five other Honduran journalists reported death threats in San Pedro Sula during 2012 so far, reported the newspaper La Prensa.

Villatoro, who hosts a morning news program and is the news director of influential radio station NRH, received death threats several times before he was kidnapped, according to the BBC, and the station where he works was attacked with a grenade in 2009, according to the Committee of Freedom of Expression of Honduras.

Authorities of the capital of Tegucigalpa arrested a former police officer as a suspect in the journalist's kidnapping, reported the Associated Press on Wednesday, May 9. The suspect's vehicle had a dent mark that coincided with the collision made with the journalist's vehicle, however, due to lack of evidence, the ex-officer was released later that day.

Five hours after the journalist's disappearance, the kidnappers communicated with the journalist's family but they made no demands, reported the newspaper Tribuna.

The U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, condemned the journalist's kidnapping on her Twitter account, posting: “We condemn those trying to control society through violence violence against journalists,” reported the newspaper El Heraldo. She continued, "It won't work. May HRN's Villatoro be found safe ASAP."

The Inter American Press Association asked the Honduran government to act quickly to rescue the kidnapped journalist. The radio station HRN released a statement asking the public for information on Villatoro's whereabouts.

Meanwhile, President Porfirio Lobo released a statement saying that due to the seriousness of the case, foreign investigative teams are collaborating with the Honduran authorities in the search, reported the news agency EFE.

The kidnapping occurred just days after Erick Martínez Ávila, a Honduran journalist and gay rights activist, was found strangled to death.

Alfredo Villatoro, age 47, started his career as a sports journalist, then studied journalism in the National Autonomous University of Honduras, and quickly became a prominent journalist in the newspapers El Heraldo, La Tribuna, and Radio América. In 2006, he became the news director for the most important news broadcaster in Honduras, HRN radio, according to his biography published by El Heraldo.

After Mexico, Honduras is considered the second-most dangerous country in the Americas for the press. Honduras is also the country with the highest homicide rate in the world, according to the UN. For more information, see this Knight Center for Journalism of the Americas map about attacks against the press in Central America.