The director of Radio Cadena Voces (RCV), Dagoberto Rodríguez, left Honduras with his family yesterday after a police warning that hit-men had been hired to kill him.
It came two weeks after a very popular journalist on the radio, Carlos Salgado, presenter of the satirical programme “Black Bean the terrible”, was shot dead in front of the radio’s studios.
Rodriguez told Reporters Without Borders, “Police officers came to see me at RCV on 29 October to warn me not to leave the station because they had learned that hired killers were planning to find and kill me within 72 hours”.
“I immediately contacted the Human Rights Commission which sent trusted people to protect me. I never thought I would have to leave my country like this. Journalism is the only thing I know. I am afraid and I feel sad, because in the past 24 hours my life has taken an unthinkable turn,” he added.
Even before receiving the police warning, Dagoberto Rodríguez had realised that his car was being systematically followed.
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the 18 October murder of Carlos Salgado, but sources within the Prosecutor’s Office suggested that there was no evidence to justify charging Germán David Almendárez, who was picked up on 27 October.
RCV is highly critical of the government of President Manuel Zelaya and many of its journalists have been harassed and intimidated.
30.10 - Suspect in radio journalist’s murder arrested, released and then re-arrested
Germán David Almendárez Amador was arrested for the second time on 28 October on suspicion of fatally shooting journalist and comedian Carlos Salgado of Radio Cadena Voces on 18 October. Aged 29, Almendárez had been arrested two days before but was released a few hours later for lack of evidence.
A 9 mm pistol believed to be the murder weapon was found in one of Almendárez’s homes. After he was arrested the first time, the Judicial Office for Common Crimes (Fiscalía de Delitos Comunes) ordered his released on the grounds that the documentary evidence submitted by the police was imprecise and insufficient, and had been altered.
This decision was strongly criticised by the police and the public prosecutor’s office, which ordered an investigation into the procedure followed by the fiscalía. According to police records, Almendárez committed two crimes in 2002.
19.10 - Murder of journalist and radio presenter whom government had in its sights
Reporters Without Borders today expressed revulsion at the murder of Carlos Salgado, a satirical journalist on Radio Cadena Voces (RCV), who was shot dead yesterday in Tegucigalpa.
Several members of staff at the radio, which was highlycritical of the government, had recently been threatened.
“The murder of Carlos Salgado confirms the deterioration in press freedom in Honduras (87th in Reporters Without Borders world press freedom rankings). The worsening and terrible climate between the government of Manuel Zelaya and the media unfortunately contributes to this situation,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“We expect the authorities, whom we can’t hold directly responsible for the journalist’s death, to carry out a prompt investigation into the facts. We also call on them to show greater tolerance of media criticism,” the organisation added
Carlos Salgado, nicknamed “Frijol el terrible”(black bean the terrible), which was also the name of his comedy and news programme, was ambushed by two gunmen in a truck who fired seven shots at him as he left the studios of RCV and was about to cross a road. He was killed instantly.
Director of RCV, Dagoberto Rodríguez said the highly popular presenter had not apparently received any death threats. ”We cannot point to who was responsible, but it should not be forgotten that there is a conflictual relationship between Radio Cadena Voces and the government,” he said. He told Reporters Without Borders that the attack was clearly aimed at the radio.
Some of the radio’s journalists told the organisation that they had been intimidated and received death threats. The journalist Edgardo Escoto received a threatening call on his mobile phone a month ago while he was covering a funeral. “If you carry on pissing us off we will bury you like this,” an unknown voice told him.
The president told the radio’s correspondent at the presidency, Carolina Torres, in September that he would no longer give her interviews. “You spend your time criticising me,” he said. “If I was Hugo Chávez, I would have had this radio shut down a long time ago.”
The government recently accused media owners of blackmail to obtain public favours, but without giving any details about the nature of the “blackmail”. The media has criticised Manuel Zelaya’s frequents trips and his attempts to control the press. The press has also exposed a number of cases of corruption, which led to a murder attempt and a suspension of his programme against Geovanny García, journalist on Canal 13 television on 7 September.