IAPA Midyear Meeting 2018

Medellín, Colombia

Press freedom suffered serious setbacks in this period due to the political crisis following the November general elections, there being reported numerous threats to and attacks on journalists, cameramen, photographers and news media offices carried out by demonstrators and security forces.

The attacks hurt journalists of national and international media, such as UneTV, Canal 6, Canal 11, Cholusat, Televicentro, HCH, Radio Progreso, Radio Globo, Univisión, Telesur, HispanTV, newspapers El Heraldo, La Tribuna, and La Prensa, among others.

The IACHR Office of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression declared, "Honduras continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the region to work as a journalist." Its report gives details of a large number of murders, attacks and threats against journalists and declares that the high level of impunity gives rise to self-censorship.

Between November and December the government declared a state of emergency with the consequent suspension of freedoms of assembly, meeting, circulation and expression. There were produced during that period attacks on and threats to media, murders and injuries to demonstrators due to the excessive use of police force. Some demonstrators were arrested and accused of terrorism, and the entry of foreign journalists was prohibited.

The European Union Electoral Observation Mission revealed an average of 64% of electoral propaganda (84% in newspapers) was paid for by the candidate of the governing party and the current President. The Mission noted the inequality between "the campaign of the National Party (PNH), at a great distance from the Liberal Party (PLH) and the Opposition Alliance" and a frequent confusion between the government and the National Party in the distribution of assets or benefits within the framework of state social programs, which gave rise to criticisms of discrimination in the resources on part of the government.

The discretion that exists in the handling of official advertising and restrictions on public information comprise a perverse mechanism of indirect censorship. There remain in force laws that restrict access, such as the Law for the Classification of Public Documents Related to National Security and Defense and the National Intelligence Law.

A proposal of the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) to amend the Law for the Classification of Public Documents continues to be ignored by the Legislative Branch.

There continues in effect the criminalization of criticism of public officials about matters of public interest. This includes libel, slander and defamation, offenses with increased punishment under the Penal Code.

The Journalists Guild, among other organizations, denounced systematic hate campaigns against media and journalists disseminated through social media and websites, in the majority related to the post-electoral crisis. Several journalists denounced these campaigns before the Attorney General's Office, accusing agencies of the very government. The investigations had not yet produced results.

A bill before Congress for a National Law on Cyber Security and Protection Measures in the Face of Acts of Hatred and Discrimination on the Internet and in Social Media would set obligations for managers of websites and fines of up to $42,000 for intermediaries, as well as the suspension and blockage of the website. The IAPA and other organizations declared that any legislation on the matter must comply with international standards.

The Honduras Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned about the existence of discrediting campaigns against defenders of human rights and journalists by senior officials. One was against Jesuit priest Ismael Moreno Coto, director of Radio Progreso, a media outlet that was also the object of attacks.

Other important events:

On October 23 the murder occurred of Carlos Oveniel Lara Domínguez, who worked as cameraman at Canal 12 Telemaya television at La Entrada, in the town of Nueva Arcadia, Copán province.

In December American journalists Jihan Hafiz and Reed Lindsay and British newsman Ed Augustin were held for 24 hours at the Tegucigalpa Airport without the immigration authorities explaining the reason for their deportation from the country the next day.

On December 1 Military Police officers attacked cameraman David Matute, of Marte TV in the town of Comayagua in the country's central area.

On December 2 journalist Bladimir Rivera of the Prensa television channel was attacked by police officers while covering news in the south of Honduras.

Journalist Sarah Kinosian, who writes for the British newspaper The Guardian and works for the BBC and news agency Democracy Now, complained that she was beaten by a police officer while covering a protest.

On December 11 it was reported that the antenna and transmission tower of Radio Progreso in Tegucigalpa were sabotaged and torn down, preventing broadcasting in the area.

On December 11 a vehicle of Canal 11 television in the city of Choluteca was shot at several times during coverage of protests in the area, but not injuring correspondent Nilda Sosa and her cameraman.

On December 18 unidentified persons attacked and set fire to the installations of Choluvisión television channel in Choluteca.

On December 23 fatally shot was radio speaker Osmin Omar Solís Ortiz in the city of Olanchito, Yoro province.

On January 12, during coverage of protests near the Presidential Palace journalists Cesar Silva and Rony Martínez of UneTV and cameraman Pedro Amador were attacked by State Security officers, who also destroyed their equipment. In the incident also attacked was journalist Claudia Mendoza, Univisión correspondent.

On January 20 there was reported an attack by police officers on journalist Dassaev Aguilar, correspondent of HispanTV. He was injured, his leg being broken.

On February 13 journalist Cesar Silva of UNETV was the object of an attack during a live broadcast. He was struck by a knife-wielding individual. The attacker fled the scene despite the fact that at the time members of the National Police were present, failing to arrest him.

On February 22 the news agency Associated Press submitted a legal recourse against an attempt by police officers to obtain a list of telephone calls from one of its journalists to identify the sources of a report about alleged police corruption. The AP complained that as well as breaking the confidentiality of the source an attempt was made to intimidate the journalist.