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Civil liberties suspended in state of emergency

A state of emergency was declared by the de facto government in Honduras on 26 September, suspending constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom of assembly for 45 days, report the Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre) and IFEX members. Harassment of the media continues as overall conditions for journalistic work greatly deteriorate.

The National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), with the support of the police and armed forces, has been authorised to suspend any radio station, television station or cable system that does not conform to the decree, reports C-Libre. The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) vigorously protested the threats to community radio stations in Honduras.

The decree also prohibits all public statements that offend public officials or question government decisions, says Human Rights Watch.

"Roberto Micheletti has effectively outlawed public criticism," said Human Rights Watch. "This kind of decree has been the norm for authoritarian rulers - from Chile's Pinochet to Cuba's Castros - who tolerate freedom of speech only when it favours the government."

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya returned from exile to Honduras on 21 September and has found refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, reports ARTICLE 19. Soldiers and riot police have surrounded the Brazilian Embassy and now control the neighbourhood. Micheletti, the head of the de facto government, has threatened to arrest Zelaya and has imposed a nation-wide curfew indefinitely. Micheletti is attempting to consolidate his power for the upcoming elections on 29 November by clamping down on dissent, report IFEX members.

Soldiers and police raided and shut down Radio Globo and Canal 36 on 28 September, report IFEX members. Two Guatemalan journalists covering the raid were beaten by police. Both stations were seen as sympathetic to Zelaya and very critical of Micheletti.

After openly opposing the coup, Radio Globo and Canal 36 were barred from broadcasting due to constant power cuts and possible jamming of their signals, say C-Libre and ARTICLE 19. "In early September, the de facto government brought a criminal defamation lawsuit against the director of Radio Globo, David Romero," reports ARTICLE 19. Meanwhile, reporters working for pro-Micheletti newspapers, "El Heraldo" and "La Prensa", have been threatened.

In the provinces, a local radio station, Radio Estereo 1, was shut down by armed forces on 21 September by the de facto government after supporters of Zelaya appeared on the show, says C-Libre. The station was permitted to reopen the next day but was warned to censor all news of Zelaya and his supporters.

Meanwhile, not all violations have occurred at the hands of the de facto government. On 24 September 2009, Janina Romero, a journalist for the Canal 39 television station, was assaulted by members of the National Resistance against the coup when she covered a demonstration, after interviewing one of the group's leaders, reports C-Libre. "They hit me in the face and the back. Their intention was to remove my clothes and make me walk outside naked," Romero said. Resistance lawyers have called me to ask me to refrain from filing a complaint. I am not, however, denouncing the Resistance but rather the violation of my freedom of expression and basic human rights and the threat against me."

The crisis erupted in June after Zelaya insisted on holding a constitutional referendum, even though the judiciary ruled it illegal and it was opposed by members of his own party, say news reports.

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