October 5, 2007

Freedom of expression triumphs

Good news for journalists

The judges didn't take long to act and they did the right thing.

The criminal defamation cases against the two television journalists were thrown out on October 3. The three judges declared that the written complaint submitted by Hondutel contained no indication that the defendants had committed a crime. They also stated that under the penal law, the decision could not be appealed.

This being Honduras, though, journalists Renato Alvarez and Rossana Guevara went on record saying that "if anything happens to us or our families, we will put the responsibility on the persons who brought the lawsuit."

Alvarez went on to say that "when there are governments that act despotically trying to eliminate freedom of speech, that shows us that journalists should take care of themselves."

The coordinator of the National Corruption Council issued a call to President Mel Zelaya to reflect and put in order those functionaries who race to sue journalists without first investigating the acts of corruption which were indicated.

On October 4, a tribunal of three different judges declared the other cases (against the two radio station journalists and El Heraldo newspaper) inadmissible. Apparently the lawsuit against La Prensa was never filed. The judges stated that the personal interests of one person cannot be put above the public interest.

Several members of the national congress spoke out saying that
freedom of expression is one of the pillars of a democratic society. Several mentioned that the law making defamation a criminal offense, as well as the new transparency law, need to be changed in order to guarantee the citizens the right to be informed. One diputado went so far as to say that "to file a lawsuit against journalists who denounce corruption only reflects the class of functionary who isn't prepared to show his innocence." The congress called for the firing or suspension of Marcelo Chimirri.

Background information:

Hondutel-Chimirri scandal
Swamp of corruption in Hondutel
Reporter claims "government persecution"
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