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Murder of journalist highlights country's status as one of worst for press

A journalist who reported on corruption and local land disputes was gunned down last week in Honduras, the 10th journalist to have been murdered since March 2010, report the Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión (OLA) and other IFEX members. In not one case has the murder been solved, accounting for Honduras's status as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world.

Héctor Francisco Medina Polanco, who produced and hosted the TV9 news programme for the Omega Visión cable company, was shot outside his home in Morazán on 10 May by at least two unidentified gunmen who had been following him. He died from related complications the next day.

The 35-year-old journalist was known in the local community for his exposure of corruption allegedly implicating the Morazán mayor's office. He had also reported on land conflicts involving local ranch owners.

Medina Polanco's brother, Carlos Alberto, told OLA that Héctor Francisco had been threatened several times over the past six months and reported the threats to both national and international authorities.

"It is unacceptable that Medina Polanco had reported being threatened and was not given protection," said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Last year, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) recommended that the Honduran government take special measures to combat violence against the press and impunity, such as setting up a special public prosecutor's office to deal with offences against journalists, push for special legal jurisdiction, and stiffen penalties to deal with such crimes. The office has not been established.

Nor have any results been released of the investigations into the 10 murders of journalists, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

"Without effective measures not only will the problem of impunity not be resolved but this spiral of violence restricting press freedom will continue to escalate," said IAPA.

CPJ has recorded a string of recent attacks on journalists throughout the country. In April, San Pedro Sula-based Radio Uno director Arnulfo Aguilar was ambushed by a group of armed men outside his home. In March, at least seven journalists covering a weeks-long teachers' protest faced harassment, attack, and detention. Earlier that month, Radio Voz de Zacate Grande director Fanklin Mendez was shot in the leg over the station's critical coverage of land disputes in the area.

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