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Free expression in jeopardy following coup

Journalists have been harassed in the wake of the coup in Honduras
Journalists have been harassed in the wake of the coup in Honduras

AP via CPJ

Following the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya on 28 June, the new authorities have harassed and briefly detained journalists, interfered with several broadcast media outlets and imposed a 48-hour curfew, putting free expression at risk, say IFEX member in Honduras Comité por la Libre Expresíon (C-Libre), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and other IFEX members.

After the Honduran army arrested Zelaya and expelled him from the country, Roberto Micheletti was sworn in as president of Honduras at Congress and a two-day curfew was imposed. Zelaya had been seeking a referendum on a constitutional change to eliminate presidential term limits and allow him a second run.

As soon as the state of emergency was declared, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) blocked cable television transmissions, which affected international TV stations, such as CNN Español, Telesur and Cubavisión Internacional, says C-Libre.

State television outlet Canal 8 went off the air from early Sunday to late Monday night, while the private TV station Canal 36, which supported Zelaya, remained off the air as of Tuesday afternoon, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

According to C-Libre, power cuts ordered by the government prevented radio and television broadcasts from airing, such as those of the popular national station Radio Cadena Voces. Telephone lines and Internet access were also cut and mobile phone signals were constantly interrupted.

Meanwhile, journalists report they have been attacked while they have been working. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in the northern city of El Progreso, around 25 soldiers stormed into the studios of Radio Progreso, a station affiliated to the Latin American Association of Radio Education, four hours after the coup and forced the staff to stop working. In a statement, station manager Ismael Moreno said the intervention of local residents prevented more serious violence. Radio Progreso has not yet resumed broadcasting.

Other journalists have been arbitrarily detained. On 29 June, at least 10 soldiers armed with rifles detained three journalists from the Venezuela-based regional television network Telesur and four journalists and media workers from The Associated Press inside their hotel in Tegucigalpa, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). They were brought to an immigration office and released a short while later.

According to CPJ, Telesur reported that Honduran military officials said the journalists were detained for "security measures."

Adriana Sivori, a journalist from Telesur, told ARTICLE 19 after her release, "They arrested us without any provocation and provided no explanation; it felt like we were back in the dictatorships of the 1980s."

At least seven media workers are now missing, says ARTICLE 19, and others have been threatened, including C-Libre's Gustavo López.

IAPA is requesting that the Honduran authorities waive the curfew for local and foreign journalists "whose duties must be respected so that citizens and the international community may be kept fully informed."

Meanwhile, local media complained that protesters in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Zula opposed to Zelaya's overthrow attacked and insulted reporters and photographers and destroyed newspaper vending kiosks.

"La Prensa" in San Pedro Sula declared that "a group of reporters, photographers and drivers from the newspaper were threatened while covering the crisis in the country" and were photographed by demonstrators who attempted to seize their equipment, while a distribution van was attacked by a mob, says IAPA.

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