Last freedoms suspended leaving media at mercy of total shutdown

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Last freedoms suspended leaving media at mercy of total shutdown

Reporters Without Borders said today that the last vestiges of independent news were under threat after the de facto government signed a decree yesterday banning “unauthorised” public meetings and giving itself the power to close media “damaging public order”

“Three months to the day after the 28 June 2009 coup, basic rights and public freedoms are just empty words in Honduras”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The coup government was trying to justify these steps in response to “calls to insurrection” from ousted leader Manuel Zelaya, who has called on his supporters to “march on the capital”.

“There is nothing now missing from the dictatorial arsenal of a government that took power by force and is deaf to the appeals of the international community”, the organisation said. “What little news there was outside of the control of the Micheletti administration is in danger of disappearing from one moment to the next, after three months of suspensions and constant intimidation of all media critical of the coup.”

The emergency decree, which should theoretically be approved by the Congress, is supposed to last for 45 days, but the organisation fears that the situation will degenerate into further repression and even greater threats to the safety of journalists. The director of Radio Progreso, the priest Ismael Moreno, said yesterday he had received death threats through texts sent to the mobile phones of radio staff, suggesting that a price had been put on his head.

“We hold the de facto government fully responsible for the least assault, including on Father Ismael Moreno and his staff”, added Reporters Without Borders’ Secretary General, Jean-François Julliard. Employees on Radio Progreso said that police were posted around the premises staking out the building ahead of a total closure of the media.

The incomplete list of media threatened with closure includes Radio Globo (now closed), Canal 36, Radio Uno, El Libertador, Cholusta SUR, as well as the civil society’s mailing list Red de Desarrollo Sostenible RDS – Network for Sustainable Development). The National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) has notified the RDS that it is has the power to inspect and suspend all activity registered under the domain name (.hn). This step could allow Conatel to control all news sent over the Internet, not just by the media but by any other civil organisation based in Honduras.

Meanwhile, amidst continuing chaos in the country, journalists have been illegally detained. Agustina Flores, of Radio Libertad, has been held by the security forces since 22 September and has been maltreated. She had provided live coverage of violent crackdowns on several demonstrations.

Source:Reporters Without Borders

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