New wave of censorship in Honduras

by Andy Sennitt.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya’s reappearance in Tegucigalpa has prompted a new wave of censorship of the national and international press. The de facto government’s response to the news of his return and his appeal to the army to “turn its rifles on the enemies of the people” has been to impose an immediate curfew, keep the international press away from the pro-Zelaya demonstrations and do everything possible to silence the few independent and opposition media still operating.

“This clampdown on the media in Honduras is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We condemn the attempts of the de facto authorities to ensure that a serious situation goes unreported and we urge them to respect the rights of Honduran citizens, especially the right to free expression and free movement.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Deprived of news and information, the international community is not even able to find out how many people have been injured or arrested in the course of the military’s operations.”

The entire neighbourhood around the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya and his wife have been holed up since 21 September, has been militarised with the aim of “sweeping the area clean” of demonstrators and news media,” as a police officer put it. The international media, including news agencies such as Reuters and the Associated Press have been forced to leave the neighbourhood.

The government headed by acting President Roberto Micheletti is gagging the national press, especially two pro-Zelaya broadcast media, Canal 36 television and Radio Globo, which tried to provide live coverage of the events around the Brazilian embassy including the crackdown on demonstrators.

The head of Canal 36, Esdras Amado López, said the station has not been broadcasting since yesterday when its power supply was disconnected. Radio Globo, the only broadcast media to cover Zelaya’s arrival in Tegucigualpa, said it has been forced repeatedly to stop broadcasting. Both media say the aim is to prevent them covering the dispersal of the demonstrators around the embassy.

The Spanish news agency EFE quoted Micheletti as saying on 20 September that two journalists whom he did not name had practiced “media terrorism” by announcing Zelaya’s return, which he had not at that time recognised as a reality. Micheletti added that the two journalists – clearly Amado and David Romero of Radio Globo – would receive court summonses.

Radio Progreso, a station based in the northern town of El Progreso, preferred to suspend broadcasting at around 5 pm yesterday rather than have soldiers move into its studios to supervise its operations, as happed after the 28 June coup d’état. A Radio Progreso journalist said the station did not want a military occupation and the resulting danger to its staff. He did not how long he thought the station would have to stay off the air.