Honduras radio journalists dealt further blow to freedom of expression

Amnesty International has denounced an attack on the freedom of the press in Honduras, following the cancellation of three radio programmes by a popular radio station’s managers who cited a controversial presidential decree to justify their action.

Normally broadcast on the Radio Cadena Voices station, the programmes La Bullaranga, Entre Chonas and Tiempo de Hablar are largely produced and controlled by women and young people.

“The arbitrary termination of such programmes deals another blow to freedom of expression and curtails the Honduran population’s access to information and discussion forums” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Adviser in Amnesty International’s Secretriat.

The programme managers were informed in writing by the directors of Grupo INVOSA, owners of the station, that their broadcasts “failed to promote peace” and “discredited” the electoral process, therefore violating an emergency presidential decree issued by the de facto government.

The decree cited has since been annulled, however the programmes remain suspended.

“The pulling of these programmes has promoted an increased atmosphere of fear and intimidation for journalists, ” said Javier Zuñiga. “It also demonstrates the de facto authorities’ intolerance of free discussion and expression of views, particularly any views which may be contrary to their own.”

Amnesty International has urged the de facto authorities to comply with measures imposed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, to ensure that media workers and outlets in Honduras can carry out their work free from intimidation and threats.

On 23 October 2009 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights placed the workers of the stations Canal 36, Radio Catracha, Cholusat Sur Radio and Radio Globo onto the list of those to be protected by medidas cautelares (provisional measures) after they had been shut down by Presidential decree.

Human rights abuses in Honduras have increased since the democratically elected President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales was forced from power on 28 June and expelled from the country by a military-backed group led by Roberto Micheletti, former leader of the National Congress.

There has been widespread unrest in the country since the coup d’etat with frequent clashes between the police, military and civilian protestors. At least two people have died after being shot during protests.

On 19 August Amnesty International published testimonies and evidence which documented excessive use of force and beating of protestors by police in a report titled Honduras: Human rights crisis threatens, as violence and repression increase. The report was based on evidence gathered by the organization during a fact-finding mission 28 July – 1 August 2009.

The organization is calling for the de facto authorities to ensure Honduran citizens can freely access information – particularly vital during the current crisis.