The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the abduction this morning of Honduras journalist Alfredo Villatoro, asking the country’s president, Porfirio Lobo, to take immediate action in the case. It also urged the government to organize means of ensuring the safety of members of the press and put an end to the impunity that surrounds other cases of violence against news media and individual journalists.
Villatoro, with the Tegucigalpa radio station HRN, was driving at 4:45 a.m. on his way to the station, where he is in charge of the newscast “Diario Matutino” (Morning News), when he was intercepted and kidnapped by at least six assailants who were riding in two pickup trucks, a police spokesman reported. Villatoro, known in various local media as one of the Central American country’s most influential radio reporters, had reported receiving death threats.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, called on the government to act promptly to obtain Villatoro’s immediate release and ensure his life. Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, added, “Every case of violence against journalists and media in Honduras that remains unsolved encourages impunity, generates self-censorship and creates a feeling of impotence among those that suffer it.”
In its recent half-yearly meeting the IAPA adopted a resolution in which it declared that “despite the political commitment of the national government (of Honduras) to reverse the adverse climate that the practice of journalism is facing, there prevail threats against journalists in the country, as well as attacks against the media and the impunity of most of the 19 murders of journalists that have occurred since 2003.”
Also on that occasion President Lobo was urged to show greater political will and effort and “make available the technical, scientific, and legal resources … to put a brake to the violence and harassment against the press, and solve the murders of journalists.”
Villatoro’s abduction occurred two days after the discovery of the body of journalist, gay community activist and National Popular Resistance Front member Erick Martínez Ávila. The reasons for his having been killed are so far unknown.
In another development in Colombia Romeo Langlois, correspondent of the French television channel France 24, remains captive. He was kidnapped on April 28 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla movement, which made a condition of his release that a national and international debate be held on the press. The IAPA held the FARC responsible for the journalist’s physical well-being and demanded his immediate release.