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Coup bodes ill for media in Honduras regardless of outcome

Soldiers arrest a supporter of Honduras' ousted President Zelaya during a march in San Pedro Sula July 2, 2009. Honduras' interim government said on Thursday it was open to holding early elections to resolve the impasse over ousted President Manuel Zelaya, as the Organization of American States readied a mission to Honduras to push for his reinstatement.

The hostility of those who staged the coup against President Manuel Zelaya on June 28 and Zelaya’s announced return could further aggravate the press freedom situation. The military’s already significant level of censorship of the international media and national media that oppose the coup has been compounded by the excesses of the media that back it, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has said.

“We fear more news blackouts will be imposed on part of the press for the sole reason that it used the term ‘coup d’état’ in the first few hours after President Zelaya’s removal,” it said. “The de facto government’s promise to arrest Zelaya on his return could also trap those media that plan to cover his return.”

The press freedom organisation added, “We can no longer ignore the attitude of certain anti-Zelaya media that are taking the same line as those ousted Zelaya, namely that there has not been any coup. This editorial position has serious jeopardised the safety of reporters and photographers employed by these media during the recent demonstrations and could later lead to a witch-hunt.”

Deposed by the army on June 28 and flown to Costa Rica, Honduras’ democratically-elected president had originally planned to return on Thursday to Honduras accompanied by other Latin American presidents such as Cristina Fernández of Argentina and Rafael Correa of Ecuador.

But Zelaya postponed his return after the new Honduran authorities threatened to arrest him and the Organisation of American States today gave them 72 hours to restore Zelaya to office. The de facto government has meanwhile extended the curfew by a week, which severely limits the media’s ability to cover developments.

Some TV stations such as Canal 8 (which is state-owned), Canal 6 and Canal 11 have resumed broadcasting but their coverage of the coup is either closely controlled or non-existent.

The censored international TV stations —Telesur and CNN —can only be accessed on the Internet. Telesur and Associated Press representatives have been arrested. Some pro-Zelaya journalists such as Esdras Amado López of Canal 36 have had to go into hiding. Others, such as Eduardo Maldonado of Maya TV, have requested political asylum.

The military crackdown has spared media that support the de facto government such as the radio stations HRN, Radio Cadena Voces and Radio América, the TV stations Canal 5 and Canal 10 and the dailies La Prensa, El Heraldo and La Tribuna. These media have incurred the wrath of much of the population.

Date posted: July 3, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 367