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; however, the government generally does not respect these rights in practice. Despite the fact that Honduras banned desacato (disrespect) or criminal defamation legislation aimed at protecting the honor of public officials, restrictive press laws are still often used to subpoena journalists for reporting on official corruption, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. In a positive step, the Transparency and Access to Public Information Law was approved by Congress, but it will take effect only in 2008, when a new regulatory institution will be created. Local press freedom advocacy groups are still concerned about the effectiveness of the new law because it leaves open to interpretation the terms “national security” and “confidential information.” The law also adds another ambiguous term, “secret information,” and does not specify when such information can be made public. Nonetheless, for the first time in Honduras the new law also protects journalists from having to reveal their sources.
President Manuel Zelaya usually criticizes the media when he perceives news reports as being unfriendly to his government. He has accused journalists of exaggerating the government’s mistakes and minimizing its accomplishments. During the year, journalists faced a number of legal prosecutions from political figures. On September 4, Ernesto Rojas, a reporter for Radio San Pedro, was sued by city council member Guillermo Villatoro Hall, while Francisco Romero, a reporter on the program “Hablemos de Noche de Honduras,” was sued by Yansen Juarez, the national coordinator of programs and projects in the Ministry of Public Education. Both suits were considered to be on charges of harassment.
The number of threats and physical attacks against journalists diminished in 2006, but some incidents did occur, particularly following the publication of articles on organized crime or corruption. Among a number of other incidents, journalists Roberto Marin Garcia and Dina Meza of the website Revistazo.com, an online publication of the Association for a Fairer Society, were followed and hounded after revealing fraud and labor violations at security firm Delta Segurity. Liberal Party representative Romualdo Bueso Melghem tried to strangle community journalist Martha Vasquez during a public meeting in April. Vasquez is a contributor for the website Indymedia.com. Separately in April, Wendy Guerra, host of the Santa Rosa de Copan city–based Channel 49 news program “Denuncias 49,” was fired following political pressure felt by the station’s manager, who is a member of the Liberal Party. In May, Guerra was rehired after a public outcry.
Honduras has around nine daily papers, including the popular El Heraldo and El Tiempo. There are six private television stations and five nationally broadcasting radio stations—one state owned and four independent. 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; this has led to self-censorship. Corruption among journalists also has an unfavorable impact on reporting. In addition, the government influences 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; however, less than 5 percent of the population used the internet in 2006.