Miami (September 28, 2009)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed deep concern at a Honduras government decree outlawing public rights, including those of free assembly and free speech, defining as an especially "absurd measure" authorities' power to censor or shut down any news media perceived as “disturbing the national peace, inciting public insurrection and causing psychological harm to their readers, listeners and viewers.”
The decree issued on September 22, published in the Official Gazette four days later and in effect for 45 days, was applied this morning to shut down Canal 36 and Radio Globo, two media outlets identified with ousted President Manuel Zelaya, and which the IAPA has been demanding be allowed to operate freely.
IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón declared, “Whatever the editorial policies that the Honduran media may have, absolutely all of them should have the freedom to inform, as stipulated in Article 72 of the Constitution, without prior censorship.” He added that the decree is an “absurd order” which gives the government special license to determine what media may or may not inform, how they should do so and, “worse yet, it limits the ability of every Honduran to be informed in full freedom.”
Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, warned that “this decree allows discretionary censorship based on political interests,” in contrast to every institutional principle concerning freedom of expression set forth in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression, and the Declaration of Chapultepec, which establishes that the exercise of freedom of expression and of the press “is not a concession of the authorities but an inalienable right of the people.”
Santos Calderón stressed, “To qualify as a true democracy requires an unrelenting respect for freedom of the press and of expression, whatever differences may exist over editorial positions. To accept a decree of this sort is to accept censorship and the shut down by authorities of any news media outlet that dissents from the government or its officials.”
The Roberto Micheletti government, in power following the June 28 overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya, suspended constitutional guarantees, among them personal freedom, free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to move about freely.
Zelaya has been in the Brazilian embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, since September 21.
Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, recalled that in recent weeks the IAPA has protested against many forms of assault upon news media and individual journalists generated by both the authorities and groups supporting Zelaya, and also recalled that the organization had in the past frequently condemned the Zelaya government for his its anti-press freedom policies.
Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, asked that “the broadcast signal of the media concerned by restored and that the state of emergency not be used to legitimize censorship, so that the public’s right to know is not violated.”
The Micheletti government decree justifies the adoption of measures against freedom of the press alleging that “certain radio and television media are using their licensed frequencies to generate hate and anti-government violence, to disrupt national peace, to call for citizen insurrection and causing psychological harm to their readers, listeners and viewers.” For these stated reasons it makes it illegal, under Article 3, paragraph 3 “to issue reports through any spoken, written or televised media outlet that offend human dignity or public officials, or break the law and government regulations, or in any manner disrupt the peace and public order; CONATEL , through the National Police and Armed Forces, is authorized to suspend any radio station, television channel or cable system that does not adjust its programming to these regulations.”