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Honduras further restricts freedoms of broadcasters

The interim government targets reports that 'attack national security.'

October 11, 2009|Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — Honduras' interim leaders put in place new rules Saturday that threaten broadcasters with closure for airing reports that "attack national security," further restricting media freedom after the closure of two opposition stations.

The latest decree is sure to anger supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and appears to be a challenge to the Organization of American States and a team of regional diplomats who were in the country Thursday to push for a resolution of the crisis.

A statement released by the OAS delegation urged the coup-installed government to, among other things, allow the resumption of operations at the two broadcasters, which backed Zelaya's return to office.

Under the decree imposed by the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti, "the frequencies of radio or television stations may be canceled if they transmit messages that incite national hate and the destruction of public property."

Officials can monitor and control broadcast messages that "attack national security," according to the decree.

It was adopted by the Interior Ministry and will be enforced by the National Telecommunications Commission, interim Information Minister Rene Zepeda said.

Micheletti was sworn in as Honduras' interim president following a June 28 coup that ousted Zelaya and sent him into exile. After Zelaya suddenly reappeared in Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy on Sept. 21, street protests prompted the Micheletti government to limit freedom of expression, association and movement, and to shut down two pro-Zelaya broadcasters.

The restriction on civil liberties has been lifted, but Channel 36 and Radio Globo are still off the air. Micheletti said they would remain shut down until their owners "come to the courts to recover their right to be on the air."

"We thought that when the [civil liberties] decree was revoked, the equipment would be returned, but that has not happened," said Yesenia Herculano, an activist with Honduras' Committee for Free Expression, earlier this week.

Talks on resolving the bitter divide over Zelaya's ousters produced some signs of progress before breaking off for the weekend.

The international community has been pressuring the Micheletti government to allow Zelaya's return before the Nov. 29 presidential election, which was scheduled before the coup. Zelaya was toppled after he pressed ahead with plans for a referendum on changing the constitution despite a Supreme Court order ruling the vote illegal.

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