Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of speech and of the press are constitutionally protected, and the government generally does not restrict these rights. In 2005, there were some positive legal developments for press freedom, with various defamation lawsuits resolved in favor of journalists, as in the cases of Frank Mejia, Sandra Maribel Sanchez, Rossana Guevara, and Carlos and Suyapa Banegas. Also, the editors of the daily La Prensa reached a conciliatory arrangement with the Supreme Court. In May, in an unprecedented decision, the Supreme Court banned the desacato (disrespect), or criminal defamation laws that mandated a two- to four-year jail term for defamation, slander, or insult of a public official. The constitutional guarantee of the "habeas data" principle was advanced by establishing the right of individuals to access information concerning themselves or their property in public or private records. Still, restrictive press laws are often used to subpoena journalists for revealing public information, particularly about official corruption, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. Broadcast journalists Eduardo Maldonado and Esdras Amado Lopez were accused of revealing trade secrets after reporting on a business transaction between the Institute of Retired Public Employees and a financial company where a government adviser was a shareholder.
Although threats and attacks against journalists have decreased, incidents do occur following reports on organized crime or official corruption. In July, unidentified individuals in San Marcos de Ocotepeque tried to kill radio journalist Jose Aleman by firing several shots at him as he was returning home from the station. Aleman revealed that he had received death threats after reporting on problems with the water supply for the community. Politically motivated attacks against the press were common as well. On November 5, Liberal Party supporters forced the temporary closure of Virtud Stereo radio and made death threats against its manager, Jaime Diaz, as a result of party rivalry during the election.
Although both print and broadcast outlets are predominantly privately owned, media ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few powerful business conglomerates with intersecting political and economic ties, and this has led to self-censorship. Corruption among journalists also had an unfavorable impact on reporting. In addition, the government influenced media coverage through bribes, the granting or denial of access to government officials, and selective placement of official advertisements. The government did not restrict access to the internet.