Day of the Imprisoned Writer Cases 2015: Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina (Honduras)
02 Nov 2015
Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina was the owner of Honduran television station Vida Televisión and a correspondent for Globo TV, known for its criticism of the Honduran government. He was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in his home on 7 December 2013, aged 43. Family members believe the journalist was killed for exposing corruption in a local hospital; he had received death threats before his murder. Argeñal was also a member of the opposition political party Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE), and Vida Televisión had voiced support for the party. Argeñal’s murder remains unsolved and there has been almost no progress in the investigation. PEN considers Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina to be an emblematic case, illustrative of the severe crisis of impunity for lethal violence against journalists in Honduras.
In the months before his murder, Argeñal had received threats, including death threats, in connection with his reporting on corruption in a local hospital and in local government. He had told local rights group Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras – COFADEH) about these threats before his death; his family passed this information to police after his death.
According to Mario Argeñal, his brother, Juan Carlos Argeñal was killed for exposing corruption in Gabriela Alvarado regional hospital in Danlí, including large-scale embezzlement of funds and theft of supplies by a hospital administrator and local political leader. The journalist broke the story on both his local TV station Vida TV and the national station Globo TV in June-July 2013, and gave numerous media interviews as a result. A few months later, an oversight commission was set up to investigate the alleged corruption and the hospital administrator was reportedly dismissed.
Almost two years’ later, Argeñal’s murder remains unsolved. According to his brother – who has been active in demanding justice for the killing – there has been almost no progress in the investigation, despite specialist police intelligence and investigative units having been assigned to the case.
Mario Argeñal was himself subjected to intimidation and surveillance by vehicles circling and keeping watch on his house in December 2013 and February 2014, after he gave interviews to national media on his brother’s murder, linking it to his reporting on corruption in local government and had also been liaising with the authorities to seek justice.
According to PEN International’s records, at least 54 journalists have been murdered in Honduras since 2003, 48 of them since the coup d’état in June 2009. Over 90 per cent of these murders remain entirely unsolved. Although a few convictions have been obtained in a few – mainly high-profile – cases, most may be considered only partially solved due to the authorities’ failure to prosecute those responsible for ordering the crime.
Argeñal’s killing is one of dozens of unsolved cases of murders of journalists featured in the report Honduras: Journalism in the Shadow of Impunity, jointly published by PEN International, PEN Canada and the International Human Rights Program of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law in January 2014. PEN International considers the killing of Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina to be emblematic of the severe crisis of impunity for lethal violence against journalists in Honduras, and along with PEN Honduras, the local PEN Centre in the country, has been active in campaigning on his family’s behalf.
Please send appeals:
Calling on the Honduran authorities to:
- Expedite the investigation into the murder of journalist Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina and to bring his killers to justice as a matter of urgency;
- Fully investigate the apparent link between Argeñal’s murder and his reporting on corruption allegations;
- Ensure the safety of Argeñal’s family members and others campaigning for justice for his murder;
- Fully investigate all possible links between the murder of journalists in Honduras and their reporting and/or their political views.
Señor Oscar Chinchilla Banegas
Lomas del Guijarro
Avenida República Dominicana
Edificio Lomas Plaza II
Fax: +504 2221 5667
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Salutation: Señor Fiscal General / Dear Attorney General
Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Life
Abogado José Mariano Salgado
Fiscalía de Delitos Contra la Vida
Ministerio Público de Honduras
Apartado Postal 37-30
Salutation: Estimado Abogado Salgado / Dear Special Prosecutor
Minister of Security
General Julián Pacheco Tinoco
Secretaria de Estado en el Despacho de Seguridad
Aldea el Ocotal
Antiguo Local de la Academia Nacional de Policia (ANAPO)
Salutation: Señor Ministro de Seguridad / Dear Minister of Security
Please also send copies of your appeals to the Honduran Embassy in your country, and ask for it to be forwarded to President Juan Orlando Hernández.
- Write to Juan Carlos Argeñal Medina’s family expressing your condolences and/or support. For contact details, please contact Tamsin Mitchell. For correspondence guidance, read the PEN WiPC Guide to Defending Writers Under Attack (Part V, pgs 15-20).
For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0338 email: Tamsin.firstname.lastname@example.org