Coinciding with Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s inauguration today as the country’s new president, Reporters Without Borders and six other organisations are releasing a report on the state of press freedom in Honduras since the 28 June coup d’état (available in Spanish). The report is the result of a joint fact-finding visit to Honduras from 1 to 7 November.
The other six organisations are Article 19, World Association of Newspapers/Asociación de Entidades Periodísticas Argentina (WAN/ADEPA), World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Media Support (IMS) and FreeVoice.
Bearing in mind the report’s recommendations, Reporters Without Borders would like to spell out its position on Honduras.
The 28 June coup led to a major crackdown on news media that remained loyal to ousted President Manuel Zelaya or simply opposed the coup.
The military occupation of Radio Progreso, the closures, disruption and attacks on Canal 36 TV, Radio Globo and Radio Uno, the sabotaging of online news media (El Libertador, Revistazo and El Patriota) and community radio stations (Radio Marcala and Radio Coco Dulce), the financial blackmailing and harassment of the Diario Tiempo newspaper and the suppression of programmes hosted by civil society organisations such as Cofadeh and women’s rights groups are all evidence of the sidespread censorship that has been taking place.
There have also been also serious acts of violence and, more recently, the murder of Walter Tróchez, a young human rights activist.
At the same time, this coup would never have succeeded without the support of the country’s leading news media, owned by politicians and big businessmen who did not hesitate to expose their own staff to reprisals from an angry population. The widely-covered coup also posed a major dilemma for our organisation. How were we to defend the Honduran press when we knew that part of it had endorsed this flouting of democratic principles?
The coup and its consequences did not end with the 29 November elections, which the de facto authorities hoped would resolve the crisis they had caused. The problems could drag on if the government installed today does not quickly adopt measures to restore the rule of law, pluralism and civil liberties, including press freedom.
This report’s recommendations include reform of the legislation governing media regulation and recognition of community radio stations as a matter of priority. Four of the seven organisations – IMS, FreeVoice, AMARC and Reporters Without Borders – have decided to help pay for Radio Coco Dulce, recently torched by arsonists, to become operational again.
The seven organisations also call on Honduras to bring its legislation on access to information and press offences into line with international standards and they hope that the authorities will guarantee the safety of journalists. Finally, they call for an eventual dialogue among the media, human rights groups and civil society with the aim of putting the country back on the road of democracy.
(Photo : AFP)