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Community radio station correspondents released, face legal action for "disobedience"

(AMARC/IFEX) - On 15 December 2010, Elia Hernández and Elba Rubio, both of whom are correspondents for the La Voz de Zacate Grande community radio station, were detained by naval and police personnel. They, along with other community members, were released after 36 hours, during which time they were unable to communicate with anyone and were not charged with any offence. At the time of their release on 17 December they showed signs of having been assaulted on various parts of their bodies. They had not been given medical attention while in detention. According to defence lawyer Kenia Olivas, the women in the group were struck in their "private parts". Hernández had wounds of this nature.

With no evidence against them the Amapala Tribunal came to the conclusion that they would be considered suspects with a case pending against them for "disobedience" as characterised in the criminal code, which stipulates a prohibition on participating in demonstrations that obstruct public administrative work. They are also prohibited from leaving their communities. A hearing in the case has been set for 11 January 2011.

According to Honduran law, the actions against the journalists have been plagued with irregularities that violate the principles of due process. They were illegally detained and the branch of the attorney general's office that launched the legal action against them does not have the authority to do so.

The correspondents were arrested while they were covering a demonstration against the eviction of a family from a property in the community of Coyolito, on the island of Zacate Grande. They were arrested despite the fact that they identified themselves as journalists. In Rubio's case, she was on a roof videotaping what was taking place when she was violently pulled down and her camera and press card were seized. Hernández's press card and camera were also confiscated.

AMARC-ALC calls on the Honduran authorities to immediately withdraw the criminal proceedings against Rubio and Hernández, who were simply carrying out their work of informing the public about the events that were taking place and who clearly identified themselves as correspondents for the radio station. Their detention and the legal action against them violate press freedom and freedom of expression principles. In addition, AMARC-ALC calls for their equipment to be returned to them and for the medical costs resulting from the assault they suffered to be covered.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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