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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Honduran Congress approves jail sentences for journalists who make justifications for terrorism



This story has been updated to include the response of the National Congress of Honduras to the request from the Honduran College of Journalists to amend the law.

Journalists who make justifications for hate or incite terrorism publicly or through media could receive punishments of between four and eight years in prison, according to a recent reform to the antiterrorism law approved by the National Congress of Honduras.

Before approving the reform to Article 335-B of the Penal Code on Feb. 21, the ruling party, Partido Nacional (National Party), through parliamentary Óscar Álvarez, included media outlets in the law as possible direct authors, according to site Criterio.

The article in question reads: “Whoever publicly or through media outlets or dissemination intended for the public makes justifications or extols the crime of terrorism or those who have participated in its execution, or incites another or others to commit terrorism or financing of this, will be punished with a penalty of four to eight years in prison,” Criterio published.

Two days after the law was approved, the president of the National Congress of Honduras, Mauricio Oliva, agreed at a meeting requested by the representatives of the Honduran Association of Journalists (CPH for its acronym in Spanish) to modify the controversial article to eliminate any violation of freedom of expression, Prensa Latina reported.

To this end, Oliva ratified the appointment of a technical committee to review the drafting of the law.

However, the president of Congress said that modifications to the law will be made after it is published in the Official Gazette, La Noticia reported.

In a statement released on Feb. 24, the CPH said that it trusted the verbal commitment of the legislative authorities; However, it said that it will remain vigilant that this reconsideration will be implemented, published Criterio.

The organization also warned in the document that if the agreement is not fulfilled or extended, it will take appropriate legal action "to ensure that respect for freedom of expression and the rule of law prevails."

Congressman Jorge Cálix of the Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre) lamented the approval of the “gag law.” He said that government officials “want to persecute the media and journalists who have not been able to be bought, they are going to treat them like terrorists, in particular those who do not follow the line of the government,” El Confidencial published.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed concern about the ambiguity of the criminal charges recently approved in Honduras for facilitating these broad interpretations of punishments that do not correspond to gravity and nature of the crime of terrorism.

“The adoption of too broad definitions of terrorism may bring deliberate distortions of the term, which can be used in order to sanction claims and social movements or the work of human rights defenders,” the international entity said in its release.

Juan Ramón Mairena, former president of the Honduran Journalists Association (CPH for its acronym in Spanish), said the law is a limitation on freedom of expression, according to La Prensa.

“We journalists are at the mercy of a judge’s discretion when reporting on an event classified, or not classified, as terrorist,” Mairena said.

For Edmundo Orellana, former attorney general, this package of criminal reform is a legal tool of the government to repress citizens that demonstrate against the unconstitutional reelection of President Juan Hernández, Criterio reported.

According to Criterio, the new law is part of the package of reforms to the Criminal Code and Procedural Code that also establish violent actions that could occur during citizen protests as crimes of terrorism.



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