Washington, D.C., September 29, 2009 – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IAHCR) expresses its most energetic rejection of the executive decree number PCM-M-016-2009 dictated by the Honduras de facto government and the violations of the right to freedom of expression caused by its application.
On September 22nd, the Honduras de facto government adopted Executive Decree Number PCM-M-016-2009, published in the official journal La Gaceta on September 26th. This decree suspended, among others, the constitutional right to freedom of expression, by banning all the publications that may “offend human dignity, Government employees, or may threaten the law, and the government resolutions”. This decree authorized the National Commission of Telecommunications (Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, CONATEL) to immediately interrupt, through the use of State security forces, the broadcasting of any radio station, television channel or cable television system that in its opinion may violate the aforementioned dispositions. In application to the decree, in the early hours of September 28th, State security forces raided the offices of television Channel 36 and Radio Globo, media outlets that have been consistently critical of the de facto government, and seized their transmission equipment.
Moreover, the Guatemaltecan news broadcasters Alberto Cardona, a journalist from Guatevisión and Rony Sánchez, a cameraman from Guatevisión and the Mexican channel Televisa, were beaten by the security forces as they covered the shut down of Radio Globo. The Rapporteurship received information that the security forces confiscated the video of the shut down of the radio station and damaged the video camera.
According to information received, the Honduran Congress allegedly asked the Executive Decree to be revoked. However, despite the fact that the de facto government has indicated this is a possibility, at the time of issuing this press release the decree was still in effect and the very serious restrictions to freedom of expression registered under it have not been corrected.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression makes an urgent call for the re-establishment of the radio stations and television channels that have been shut down, the devolution of the seized equipment in excellent condition and the protection of the affected journalists, as well as the re-establishment of all the necessary guarantees for the full exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Honduras.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds that article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights prescribes that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds.” Any restriction to this right, even under a state of emergency, must be adopted by a legitimate government and must be proportionate and strictly necessary to protect the functioning of the democratic system. In this case, none of the requirements have been proved. Particularly, the prohibition of any dissenting opinion or criticism through the imposition of charges of contempt, under its most extended meaning, and the authorization to security forces to raid media outlets and seize transmission equipments when administrative authorities determine violations of the executive decree, completely suppress, in an arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate way, the right of all Hondurans to freely express and receive diverse and plural information.
For the abovementioned reasons, the Office of the Rapporteur urges the Congress and the Supreme Court of Honduras to suspend immediately the enforcement of Executive Decree PCM-M-016-2009 and to remedy the consequences of its enforcement, for flagrantly contradicting the international standards for freedom of expression.