A judge will decide on 11 January whether community radio reporters Elia Xiomara Hernández and Elba Yolibeth Rubio are to be tried on charges of disobeying the authorities and “taking part in demonstrations that obstruct public services.” That was the outcome of judicial proceedings in the southern town of Amapala in which their rights were not respected.
Hernández and Rubio, who work for radio La Voz de Zacate Grande, were arrested on 15 December while covering a protest by a family being evicted from land it had occupied in the locality of Coyolito on the southern island of Zacate Grande.
At the moment of their arrest, they produced documents showing that they are journalists. They were nonetheless held illegally for 36 hours without being told the charges and without being allowed to make any phone calls. They were hit and they were denied medical treatment. Their equipment was also confiscated. And they are currently prohibited from leaving the districts where they live.
“We deplore the decision to prosecute two journalists who were just doing their job and committed no crime, and we urge the authorities to drop all the charges,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Covering a protest is not the same as participating in it. We also demand that they be compensated for the suffering resulting from this arbitrary arrest. And those responsible for the violence against them must be called to account.”
All the legal procedures have been violated in this case. They were not taken before the judge, Eris Armando Hernández, until 24 hours had gone by since their arrest. This normally results in all charges being dropped. Also, the local judicial authorities cannot initiate prosecutions. That is the prosecutor-general’s prerogative.
In a separate development, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling on 22 December requiring the Honduran government to protect journalist José Luis Galdámez, who has escaped several murder attempts and has received many death threats designed to make him abandon his work. Galdámez is the producer of “Tras la Verdad,” a programme on Radio Globo that has criticised President José Manuel Zelaya’s removal in a June 2009 coup.