Journalist killed in Honduras amidst political tensions, growing violence against the press

By Travis Knoll

A provincial Honduran journalist was gunned down and killed on Dec. 7, Reporters Without Borders informed. Juan Carlos Argeñal, 49, is the third journalist this year to be murdered in the country, all three of whom worked for the same media group.

Honduran newspaper La Prensa reported that armed men forced their way into the Argeñal's house in the city of Danlí, in El Paraíso state, and shot the journalist twice in the head. Authorities investigating the crime have not arrested any suspects or established a motive for the crime.

Argeñal owned and ran local Christian TV channel Vida Televisión. He also worked as a correspondent for Radio y TV Globo, the same media group that employed program director Anibal Barlow and cameraman Manuel Murillo, who were killed earlier this year.

“Globo is one of the few national broadcasters to criticize the June 2009 coup d’état,” RSF said. “Its staff and reporters in the field have paid a high price for this for the past four years. It has included military occupation of their premises, confiscation of their equipment and targeted murders. The mere fact of working for Globo exposed Argeñal to danger."

Globo director David Romero said that Argeñal had reported death threats against him after revealing acts of corruption at a local hospital, AFP reported.

According to Venezuelan state news agency AVN, Argeñal was also a member of the Refoundation and Liberty Party (Libre in Spanish), which is sympathetic to former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in the 2009 coup d'etat. His brother, Mario Argeñal, was coordinator of the organization which carried out the campaign of presidential candidate and Zelaya's wife Xiomara Castro, who lost a close and controversial election last month. According to the New York Times, Castro is challenging the election results amid accusations of mass voting irregularities.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also lamented Argeñal's death and expressed their concern over the growing hostilities against the press in Honduras.

"As Honduras faces political tension resulting from the November presidential elections and prepares for a new administration, authorities must ensure that journalists can report the news and without the violent reprisals they faced after the events of 2009," the organization said.

In the last four years, 37 media workers have been killed in Honduras, La Prensa said. According to the UN's Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, last year the country had the region's highest rate of journalists killed per population.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.