Journalist’s work ban takes effect, setting bad precedent in Honduras

Reporters Without Borders condemns the outragous ban that has prevented Globo TV presenter Julio Ernesto Alvarado from working as a journalist for the past two weeks and reiterates its support for all the journalists who have been targeted by the authorities since a coup in 2009. The host of the Globo TV programme “Mi Nación,” Alvarado was handed a written notification of the ban by a sentence enforcement court official on 29 October. It is the first time that a journalist has been formally notified of such a ban in Honduras. It is hard to say why Alvarado’s work poses such a threat to President Juan Orlando Hernández’s government. What did he do? The ban is the result of a December 2013 criminal defamation prosecution in response to a complaint filed against Alvarado in 2006 by Belinda Flores Mendoza, the former dean of the economics faculty at the Autonomous National University of Honduras, after he reported on his show that she was the subject of charges before the supreme court. Ordered at the time of Alvarado’s conviction in December 2013 without taking immediate effect, the ban was condemned in November 2014 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which asked the Honduran authorities to suspend the proceedings as “precautionary measure” while it examined the case. Although the authorities did not comply with the request to suspend further proceedings in the case, the IACHR’s intervention had the effect of allowing Alvarado to continue working. Alvarado’s last possible appeal against his conviction, filed in October 2014, was rejected by the supreme court on 4 September 2015, creating a bleak precedent for freedom of expression in Honduras. Throughout these drawn-out proceedings, it has been clear that the authorities were determined to use all possible means to prevent Globo TV and its sister radio station from functioning. “The Honduran government’s persecution of Radio Globo y TV is unacceptable,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk. “It is time to end Julio Ernesto Alvarado’s ordeal and to let Honduran journalists work. This work ban is unprecedented in Honduras. We urge the sentence enforcement judge to quash the sentence. This is the only possible solution for Alvarado. We also urge the authorities to comply with the undertakings they have given to the IACHR.” This new twist in the Alvarado case is the latest of many Honduran rebuffs to the IACHR. On 21 October, just eight days before the written notification was delivered, the government had undertaken to maintain the stay on implementing the ban. But the day before, the same authorities had prevented Alvarado from travelling to Washington to plead his case at an IACHR hearing. Alvarado naturally refused to sign a copy of the document when he received the formal ban on 29 October. His Globo TV colleagues have since then tried to keep his programme going, with Alvarado providing help from a far, but the situation is becoming too complicated to manage. Although courageous, he has no other solution but to stop presenting the programme for while. Honduras is ranked 132nd ouf of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
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Updated on 20.01.2016