Amsterdam, November 27, 2019— The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the killing of TV host José Arita in northern Honduras, and urged authorities to conduct a credible and exhaustive investigation into the killing and bring those responsible to justice.
On November 25, two unidentified individuals shot Arita outside a convenience store in the city of Puerto Cortés, shortly after he finished broadcasting his show at the nearby offices of Puerto Visión, the local television station where he worked, according to Marlon Lagos, chief of criminal investigations in the region. Arita was the host of “La Hora de la Verdad” (The Hour of Truth), a nightly show on the station, according to the Honduran newspaper El Heraldo.
“The killing of television host José Arita is a stark reminder of the deadly consequences of authorities’ inaction in tackling impunity in Honduras,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “The Honduran government must take serious measures to bring Arita’s killers to justice and to end the deadly violence against those who seek to keep their fellow citizens informed.”
Arita hosted “La Hora de la Verdad,” a late-night commentary show where he discussed local politics in Puerto Cortés, a city on Honduras’ Caribbean coast, according to a journalist who knew Arita and who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns. Arita was critical of local opposition politicians in his broadcasts, the journalist said.
In his last broadcast, Arita spoke about a charity project and said that the following day, he would invite a lawyer to the show to speak about a new penal code that Arita said “only helps criminals,” the freedom of expression organization C-Libre reported.
Arita also worked as a contractor, installing electricity grids in impoverished neighborhoods, according to the journalist who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity. The journalist told CPJ that Arita had never mentioned receiving threats and was well known in the town for his involvement in charity projects.
Lagos, the official in charge of the investigation, told CPJ today that police have two lines of investigation. Lagos added, “For now, we do not discard the possibility that his assassination was linked to the work he did as a journalist.”
Since 1992, at least six journalists have been murdered in Honduras in direct relation to their work, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating over 20 other cases, not including Arita, to determine if journalism was a motive in the killing.
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Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA Committee on Press Freedom, expressed solidarity with Arita's relatives and colleagues, and called on government authorities "as we have done regarding other murders, to do their duty, to promptly investigate and show preliminary results to see if the crime occurred because of their journalistic work."
Rock, director of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota, added that public officials must "identify, prosecute and sanction" those responsible for "this and other crimes in Honduras."
According to IAPA records, the following Honduras reporters were murdered this year for reasons presumed related to the exercise of journalism: Buenaventura Calderón of Catholic radio Kupia Kumi, Puerto Lempira, on 1 November; Adgar Aguilar de Canal Six, Copán, on August 31; and Gabriel Hernández de Canal Valle TV, Nacaóme, on March 17.
The IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from the Western Hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.