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With three new deaths, Latin America is most dangerous region for journalists, say IFEX members

Three journalists have been killed in the space of a week in Brazil, Honduras and Peru, cementing Latin America's status as the most dangerous region for journalists in 2011 so far, report IFEX members.

On 8 September, Pedro Alonso Flores Silva, director of the news programme "Visión Agraria" in Casma, Peru, died two days after he was ambushed near his home. A hooded assailant got out from the backseat of a taxi and shot him at least once in the abdomen, report the Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

According to Flores's wife, Mercedes Cueva Abanto, the journalist had been the target of frequent threats during the past three months for linking local mayor Marco Rivera Huerta to alleged corruption. The mayor, who had brought a defamation case against Flores, has denied having any involvement in Flores's murder.

This is the second murder of a journalist in Peru this year and both have been carried out in the north of the country, statistically the most unsafe, says IPYS.

Then in Honduras, there's Medardo Flores, a radio journalist who supported deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. On 8 September he was shot nine times by attackers in Puerto Cortés while returning home in his car, report the Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), the International Press Institute (IPI) and RSF.

Flores was part of the Radio UNO collective in San Pedro Sula, which analysed current socio-political and cultural issues in the country, and, because of it, has often been the target of harassment and raids by the police and army. Flores was also the regional finance manager of the National Popular Resistance Front (FARP), a group that supports Zelaya, who was deposed through a coup in June 2009.

"It will be very hard for the authorities to rule out the possibility that Flores was killed for political reasons or because of his work as a journalist," RSF said. "Aside from being a FARP member, he worked for a radio station that supports Zelaya so he was doubly exposed."

IAPA is demanding that Honduras make "greater effort to protect the work of journalists and show real results in the investigations," referring to the international support that President Porfirio Lobo's government has had from specialists in the United States, Colombia and Spain to help solve the murders of journalists.

A week earlier in Brazil, Valderlei Canuto Leandro, a radio journalist known for his scathing critiques of the local authorities, was shot at least eight times by unidentified gunmen aboard a motorcycle in Tabatinga, Amazonas, Brazil, report CPJ, RSF and IPI. He had allegedly been threatened with death by a local mayor for reporting on corruption in the city.

CPJ has documented an alarming rise in lethal violence in Brazil in 2011. Four other Brazilian journalists have been killed this year, and a blogger shot and wounded.

According to IPI's Death Watch, Latin America is the deadliest region in the world for journalists so far in 2011, with at least 34 killings so far this year - nearly half of the 77 names who appear on IPI's death toll.

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