Report to the 76 IAPA General Assembly
October 21-23, 2020

The suspension of constitutional guarantees imposed by the government as a result of the pandemic represented an obstacle to the exercise of journalism.

Violence and aggressions against journalists continue according to the report of the Observatory of Violence of the National Autonomous University of Honduras and the Association for a More Just Society.

On September 27, independent journalist Luis Alonso Almendares was broadcasting live on Facebook from a street in Comayagua when he was shot by unknown gunmen on a motorcycle. He died the following day. Almendares covered police news, social news, and reported cases of corruption in social networks. He had received death threats.

On July 1, journalist Germán Vallecillo and cameraman Jorge Posas were shot dead in the city of La Ceiba, about 175 miles north of Tegucigalpa in the Caribbean region. The communicators - working for Channel 45 - were intercepted by unknown armed men in the El Naranjal neighborhood, near a daycare center.

Twenty-nine journalists have been provided security services by the General Directorate of the System for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Operators of Justice.

The crimes of libel will be prosecuted in the civil courts after the National Congress revised all the articles of the new Criminal Code relating to crimes against honor - which criminalized and imposed jail and financial penalties for the exercise of freedom of expression.

The new Criminal Code, however, has provisions that could be used to prosecute, repress, and criminalize social protest.

President Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado has not responded to the petition to reform the "Law for the Classification of Public Documents Related to National Security and Defense," because the "Law of Secrets," as it is popularly known, violates the right of access to public information and the principle of transparency.

The law - in force since January 24, 2014 - is considered an obstacle to access public documents pertaining to more than 20 ministries and government departments, since it protects information considered reserved, confidential, secret or ultra-secret for 5, 10 and even 25 years.

The terms and scope of the Law on Cybersecurity - approved by the Opinion Commission of the National Congress - are monitored due to serious risks to freedom of expression. The law establishes provisions to prevent acts of hate and discrimination in social networks and the Internet, creating a legal mechanism to regulate the handling of information in social networks with requirements for the owners or administrators of the websites.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government of President Juan Orlando Hernández decreed an absolute national curfew, suspending constitutional guarantees. These restrictions on mobility implied difficulties for journalistic coverage.

Many journalists were infected and died. The most emblematic case was the passing of journalist David Romero, who had been imprisoned since March 2019 for the crime of slander and libel. He was infected and died days later at a hospital. Pablo Matamoros, press coordinator for Hable Como Habla (HCH); Cholutecan journalist Francis Bojorques; sports journalist José Edilberto Zelaya; social events journalist Pedro Joaquín Boquín, and La Tribuna's graphic designer, Juan Carlos Salgado, also died from Covid-19.