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Free press watchdogs blow whistle on Honduras media crackdown

July 24, 2009

Honduras continues to clamp down on the media one month after a coup shook the nation, international free press and freedom of speech organizations reported Tuesday.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement condemning alleged censorship of media that have been critical of the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti.

“Respect for fundamental liberties, that of information among them, have been clearly trampled over during the past month,” the global free press watchdog said in the statement. “The suspensions or closures of audiovisual media, both local and international, give proof to the existence of a clear desire among the coup leaders to hide what is happening.”

Private radio network Radio Globo, RSF said, has taken particular heat allegedly for criticizing Micheletti, including “frequent interruptions” of its news broadcasting. On July 25, military personnel attempted to raid the station but were thwarted by a mob of protesters, according to the statement.

This followed an alleged crackdown on international media groups, particularly with the July 12 police detainment and expulsion of 11 journalists from Venezuelan media representatives Telesur and VTV. RSF reported that CNN Español and Cubavisión Internacional have also faced interruptions of their broadcasting since the June 28 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.

“The situation for journalists in Honduras has deteriorated significantly,” Agnès Callamard, executive director of the U.K.-based human rights organization Article 19, told reporters Tuesday in Mexico City after visiting the Central American country over the weekend, according to the newswire EFE.

For Article 19, which defends and promotes freedom of expression and information worldwide, Honduran media have become starkly “polarized” amid the political standoff. The group considers only two national outlets – El Tiempo and Canal 11 – have maintained balanced reporting.

Rights groups agree the situation could worsen.

As RSF acknowledged, censorship hasn´t left media groups – which already appeared to lean largely in support of Zelaya´s return to power – with a favorable impression of Honduras ´ de facto government.

In another blow to the Micheletti administration, the U.S. State Department announced Tuesday it has revoked the diplomatic visas of four Honduran officials, which the U.S. government did not name as of Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press cited a top Honduran foreign diplomat saying that Supreme Court Justice Tomás Arita – who signed the order for Zelaya´s arrest – and Congressional President José Alfredo Saavedro are among those whose visas were revoked.

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