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)
Tensions between the press and President Manuel Zelaya’s government continued in 2007, while one journalist was murdered and others were forced to flee the country owing to death threats and assassination attempts. Freedoms of speech and of the press are constitutionally protected; however, the government generally does not respect these rights in practice. Despite the fact that in 2005 Honduras abolished the penal code’s desacato (disrespect) provision aimed at protecting the honor of public officials, other restrictive press laws are still often used to subpoena and punish journalists who report on sensitive issues such as official corruption, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. Nevertheless, positive steps were taken in the legal sphere during the year. The Transparency and Access to Public Information Law, approved by Congress in 2006, was improved after complaints by local watchdog groups. Furthermore, a draft law was introduced in Congress in October to protect journalists and media companies from criminal charges stemming from their work, though the measure stopped short of extending similar protections to private individuals. Journalists still faced a number of legal suits by political figures during the year. In September, Marcelo Chimirri, manager of the national telecommunications agency, Hondutel, filed slander lawsuits against numerous journalists for publishing reports about Hondutel’s alleged misappropriation and diversion of funds. A court later dismissed the case. Meanwhile, Chimirri was arrested on November 9 for publicly releasing illegally recorded tapes of government officials threatening the press that were posted on the website YouTube.com in October.
President Zelaya often criticizes the media when he perceives news reports to be unfriendly to his government and has accused journalists of exaggerating the government’s mistakes and minimizing its accomplishments. In May, Zelaya announced that all radio and television stations in the country would be required to simultaneously transmit a series of 10 reports and interviews with public officials in order to “counteract media disinformation” about the government. In October, he further criticized the media and characterized their ownership as an oligopoly.
Threats and physical attacks against media workers continued in 2007, particularly targeting journalists reporting on organized crime or corruption. The local group Committee for Free Expression reported that 11 journalists were subjected to threats and intimidation during the year. In February, two journalists from the daily La Tribuna received death threats in connection with their investigative reporting on corruption at the Honduran Institute of Social Security. In October, radio journalist Carlos Salgado was murdered by unidentified assailants near his office at Radio Cadena Voces in Tegucigalpa. Salgado was widely known for his satirical criticism of the Honduran government and had requested police protection after he received several death threats. German David Almendarez Amador was arrested as a suspect in Salgado’s killing on October 27. The news director of Radio Cadena Voces, Dagoberto Rodriguez, fled the country on November 1 after being informed by the police that his name was on a hit list. Journalist Hector Geovanny Garcia of the local television station Hondured also left the country, first in October after being fired upon in public on September 7 and again in late November as a result of death threats. Garcia had accused officials in the Public Works Department of corruption stemming from road-surfacing contracts. Also in September, journalist Martin Ramirez was repeatedly threatened after publishing an article in La Tribuna suggesting connections between youth gangs and the local police.
Honduras has 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 for the most part 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 among media workers. 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. Although the government did not restrict access to the internet, it was used by less than 4 percent of the population in 2007.