By Steven M. Ellis
Thursday May 12, 2011
A police officer fires tear gas during clashes with students outside National University in Tegucigalpa 30 March, 2011. Students joined a protest in support of teachers who went on strike, which was declared by the Honduras government as illegal, to demonstrate against proposed plans to privatize education. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the murder of Honduran TV news host Francisco Medina, the sixteenth journalist killed in the country since the beginning of 2009.
Gunmen on a motorcycle shot Medina, 35, early Tuesday morning outside of his home in Morazon north of the capital of Tegucigalpa. Reports said the attackers followed Medina as he left work and shot him three times in the back and once in his arm.
The Associated Press said that the journalist was critical of the Honduran national police and of private security firms contracted by ranchers in the area, where drug traffickers operate. Medina had also reportedly covered corruption in the local mayor's office and regional land disputes.
Medina was taken by ambulance to a hospital following the attack, but succumbed to his injuries Wednesday morning. His brother was quoted as claiming that police officers refused to escort the ambulance.
A representative of Honduras’ College of Journalists press group told the AP that the slaying was related to Medina’s work, and that the journalist had received death threats.
Medina is the first journalist to die in Honduras this year, but his death follows a rising tide of killings in the country. Ten journalists were murdered last year and five were slain in 2009.
The country has seen a spike in journalists’ killings since the June 2009 ouster of then-President Manuel Zelaya by a military-backed coup and the subsequent election of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa as president.
In March, Franklin Meléndez, the director of the community radio station La Voz de Zacate Grande, was hospitalized after he was shot in the leg by critics of the station’s stance in favour of a peasant’s group that opposes a local biofuels magnate. Hours later, a group of armed civilians threatened one of the station’s correspondents, telling her she would be “the second to die.”
Last month, a group of men armed with rifles and wearing ski masks ambushed Radio Uno Director Arnulfo Aguilar as he arrived home. The journalist managed to elude the assailants.
In other news, Globo TV camera operator Uriel Rodríguez was beaten by police Friday as they broke up a demonstration by university students that Rodríguez was filming. Rodríguez reportedly suffered cuts to his head and injuries to his chest and extremities.
The journalist claimed in March that police targeted him and another journalist with tear gas and rubber bullets as they covered the forcible removal of professors from the Honduras Media Education College.
IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “Our sympathies go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Medina. We are extremely concerned by the wave of recent murders of journalists, which have made Honduras and Latin America one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists. We also deplore the brutal beating of Mr. Rodríguez, and we call on authorities in both cases to conduct a swift and transparent investigation, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”