CPJ urges president to reverse broadcast order

May 31, 2007

José Manuel Zelaya Rosales
President of Honduras
Casa Presidencial
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Via facsimile: + (504) 239-3298

Mr. President:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to express concern about your decision to force Honduran broadcasters to air programs with government information, a plan that violates the right to free expression as enshrined in the Honduran constitution.

On May 24, you announced that all Honduran radio and television stations would be compelled to simultaneously broadcast interviews and conversations with public officials in order “to counteract the misinformation of the news media” about your 17 months in office, according to international press reports and CPJ interviews. You decreed that 10 official broadcasts must be aired.

On Monday, your government announced that the programs would be transmitted on Mondays from 10 to 11 p.m., and on Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:45 to 8:15 p.m. You and administration officials addressed telecommunications and electricity issues during the programs that aired on Monday and Wednesday. A long-term schedule of programs has yet to be established, according to a statement on your government’s Web site.

According to regulations established by the National Telecomunications Commission (CONATEL) you have the authority to use cadenas–simultaneous nationwide radio and television broadcasts that pre-empt regular programming–to address national emergencies, to guarantee citizens’ security, and to address issues of national interest.

Honduran journalists and press freedom advocates believe your May 24 order contradicts Article 74 of the Honduran Constitution that states “the right to freedom of expression cannot be restricted by direct or indirect means, such as the abuse of official or private controls of material used to publish newspapers, or frequencies, belongings, and equipment used to distribute information.” By compelling all broadcast media to convey your administration’s viewpoints, the order also violates the spirit of Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, signed by Honduras, which guarantees the right “to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas.”

We urge you to respect Hondurans’ constitutional right to free expression and to show tolerance to points of view that differ from those of your administration. We therefore call on you to immediately reverse your decision. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.

Sincerely yours,

Joel Simon
Executive Director