Safety of Journalists > Targeted and cross fire killings > Manuel de Jesús Murillo Varela


Manuel de Jesús Murillo Varela

09 October 2013

The photographer who formerly worked for deposed President Manuel Zelaya was found dead in Tegucigalpa, three years after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested that the Honduran state to guarantee the photographer's "life and personal integrity".

According to the Honduras press-freedom group C-Libre as well as media reports, the body of Manuel de Jesús Murillo Varela, 32, was first identified on Oct. 16 after having apparently been shot to death one week earlier.

On Feb. 25, 2010, the IACHR, the human-rights arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), formally asked the Honduran government to adopt "precautionary measures" to protect the life of Murillo Varela, fellow cameraman Ricardo Antonio Rodríguez, and their families.

Under IACHR's rules of procedure, such requests are made in light of "serious and urgent situations presenting a risk of irreparable harm to persons". At the time of the IACHR's decision, Murillo Varela was working as a photographer for Globo TV.

In this case, the request alleged that Murillo Varela and Rodríguez "had been subject to kidnapping, acts of torture, and death threats," referencing in particular an incident on Feb. 2, 2010 when the two men were abducted by masked gunmen.

The abduction apparently was connected with their opposition to the 2009 forced removal of then-president Zelaya, widely viewed domestically and internationally as a coup d'état.
According to an account of the incident Murillo Varela later gave to TIEMPO newspaper, the captors placed a sharp machete down his throat and later placed him in a plastic body bag in which they threatened to bury him alive. They also continuously threatened his family's safety throughout the ordeal.

C-Libre reported that Murillo Varela had been employed as an official photographer to Zelaya and subsequently documented protests against the president's removal. Reports suggest he was now involved with the Libertad y Refundación party (Freedom and Refoundation, LIBRE), whose leader, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of the deposed president, is a candidate in the country's upcoming presidential election set for Nov. 24.

Source: IPI