|Close personal relationships between media owners and President Carlos
Flores, along with the corruption of individual journalists, combined to
undermine public confidence in the Honduran press.
Flores, who took office in 1997, is the owner of the Tegucigalpa daily
La Tribuna, whose coverage has been uniformly favorable to his
administration. Critics allege that Flores has received generally good press
by personally pressuring media owners who criticize him, and rewarding those
who support his polices. In his first year in office, Flores named at least
20 former journalists to diplomatic posts, according to local press reports.
Francisco Morales, former editor in chief of the Tegucigalpa daily El
Heraldo, was named ambassador to Spain.
Corruption also takes cruder forms. Many reporters accept bribes from government
officials in exchange for positive coverage. As an example, journalists point
out that local reporting on the government's response to Hurricane Mitch
was highly favorable, while the foreign press raised questions about the
efficacy of the relief effort and official inflation of the casualty count.
The government impedes the work of the press through control of the Colegio
de Periodistas (College of Journalists), which licenses journalists before
they are allowed to work. When Elan Reyes, the spokesperson for Honduran
first lady Mary Flake de Flores, became president of the Colegio in November,
several dozen journalists walked out in protest.