HONDURAS In general terms, the country enjoys freedom of the press, although there is a recurring public perception–expressed at gatherings or in the media itself–that the government manipulates most of the media and the journalists. The most shameful cases against freedom of expression that have come up during this period are still in the courts. Two trials, involving judges of the Court of Appeals of San Pedro Sula, concern totally unjustified complaints filed against reporters Arnulfo Aguilar and Serapio Umanzor of Diario La Prensa. Both journalists have complained about the legal proceedings. The five-year-old newspaper El Nuevo Día recently ceased publication. Its principal stockholders accused “official institutions” and the Honduras Journalists Colegio for the closure by having sued the paper’s general manager for working in Honduras without a license and mistreating the staff. They said this delivered the final blow to the daily’s survival. The closing of the newspaper, which belongs to the Hollinger group of Canada, left 130 people out of work, including journalists, photographers, printers and administrative staff. Reporters on the police beat publicly protested against the new police chief, Coralia Rivera de Coca. She has imposed measures to prevent the release of information about people involved in criminal activities. In retaliation, the chief withdrew the security detail already assigned to protect the distributors of newspapers printed in the capital, Tegucigalpa. There were complaints also during this period from journalists who cover the courts, which have been placed under a news blackout. According to the reporters, the ban comes directly from the chief justice of the Supreme Court, attorney Armando Avila. Arnulfo Canales, correspondent of Tiempo in La Lima, on the country’s north coast, was sued by the city’s mayor after publication of articles that disclosed irregularities in the delivery of relief goods for the victims of hurricane Mitch. Although the business sector has confirmed the information reported by Canales and supports him, the trial is moving ahead in the courts. Journalists from the newspaper El Heraldo have been angered by what they call constant persecution by the current administration, which apparently views stories in the newspaper as amounting to a “biased campaign” against it. The latest instance occurred with the publication of a story that reported on exorbitant increases in the state-owned Honduran Social Investment Fund (FHIS). Although similar stories had already run in two national newspapers, the government saw fit to demand clarification only from El Heraldo, which it accused of publishing “harmful and slanted stories.” The situation arises from “the government’s intolerance to criticism,” according to the editors. Journalist Allan Montenegro lost an eye as a result of a rifle-butt blow delivered by a group of police officers who detained him during an operation in Tegucigalpa. Montenegro was returning from a meeting at the time.