Journalist kidnapped in Honduras

A journalist with a top Honduran radio station was kidnapped Wednesday on his way to work, police and co-workers said, days after another reporter was killed and dumped on the side of a road.

"This morning when he was driving from his house to carry out his duties, our comrade Angel Alfredo Villatoro was kidnapped," HRN radio said in a broadcast.

Police spokesman Hector Ivan Mejia confirmed the abduction at around dawn in eastern Tegucigalpa, but said the kidnappers had not been in communication to demand a ransom.

Tegucigalpa police chief Ramon Martinez said, based on what witnesses said, "young gang members" appeared to have carried out the kidnapping.

A colleague at HRN radio station pleaded with his abductors not to harm Villatoro.

"We're asking his kidnappers to protect his life," said radio journalist Romulo Matamoros. "His family are stricken, and very worried over his sudden disappearance."

The incident came two days after the lifeless body of journalist and gay rights activist, Erick Alex Martinez Avila, 32, was found on the side of a road near Tegucigalpa, showing signs of having been strangled to death.

In the almost three years since a coup overthrew the government of leftist president Manuel Zelaya, 19 journalists have been killed in Honduras and all of the cases remain unsolved.

Journalist groups and news organizations expressed alarm at the wave of kidnappings and executions targeting their profession.

"We're enormously worried that there are next to no investigations in the murders of our colleagues," said Juan Ramon Mairena, president of the Honduran College of Journalists, a professional association.

Authorities "have told us that there are four cases under investigation, but there is no one under arrest and no prosecutions underway," Mairena said.

"They tell us that the murders were not related to their professional duties, but they offer no proof of that," said Mairena.

Human rights groups also condemned the authorities for failing to close a single case.

"The results of the investigations of these crimes is a blank page. There's no interest in investigating them," said Ramon Custodio, head of a governmental human rights commission, speaking to AFP.

Honduras has the world's highest murder rate -- 86 per 100,000 inhabitants -- a year, according to UN statistics.

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