Published On: Mon, Aug 29th, 2016

Concern voiced over press freedom violations in Costa Rica, Honduras and Venezuela

IAPAMIAMI - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) said on Friday it views with concern a series of actions taken against media and journalists in Costa Rica, Honduras and Venezuela in recent weeks that it said impair press freedom in the Latin American region.

In Costa Rica, on August 18 a preventive embargo was filed against radio station Radio Columbia Estéreo (92.7) that included its broadcast equipment and antennas. The action was ordered by the courts for payment for copyright following a lawsuit won by the organization that filed it, the Costa Rican Association of the Phonographic and Related Industries (Fonatica).

"Without the intention of analyzing the matter in depth the confiscation of the equipment essential for the functioning of the radio to comply with a court decision could result in the silencing of a media outlet, which sets a negative precedent in the country," said IAPA president Pierre Manigault.

In Honduras, journalists with the news radio station Cadena Hondureño de Noticias (CHN) complained that the government Confiscated Goods Administrative Office (OABI) had warned them that the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) would in the next few days shut down the station for not being profitable and for non-payment of a $16,500 debt.

The OABI ordered the journalists to sell advertising so as to raise in just a few days more than $4,000, according to the complaint. CHN, which has been operating in precarious conditions, was confiscated from its owner in 2014 and since then has been run by a female government official.

Also in Honduras, the IAPA expressed alarm at a conviction on a defamation charge of journalist Ariel Armando D'Vicente Jarquin, who also was prohibited from working as a journalist. The Choluteca Court is imposing three-year imprisonment and prevention from working in the press during the term of the conviction, among other sanctions.

D'Vicente, host and director of the news program "Prensa Libre" (Free Press) broadcast on Libertad TV Canal 21 television channel, denounced alleged irregularities committed in 2014 by the Choluteca police chief, Lougio Oquelí Mejía Tinoco, who sued him.

"This is not the first court decision used to sanction and censor Honduran journalists that investigate figures and matters of public interest, to suspend a person's work activity, whatever his or her profession may be, is an aberration and worse if it concerns work as a journalist," said Manigault, president of the Charleston, South Carolina, newspaper The Post and Courier.

In 2013 a Honduran court had also prohibited from working in journalism reporter Julio Ernesto Alvarado. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on the government "to suspend the carrying out of the conviction" and adopted a precautionary measure in favor of Alvarado.

In this same country, journalist and human rights defender Milthon Robles reported that he was the victim of an attack on his life on August 21 in San Pedro Sula. He told the Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre) that what he identified as a tourist vehicle tried to run him over.

In Venezuela, the offices of the newspaper Diario de Los Andes in Trujillo state was attacked at dawn on August 24, the date on which the paper was celebrating its 38th anniversary. Two people riding a motorcycle shot 30 times at the newspaper's main door, causing material damages.

Local media reported that the attack occurred after the newspaper had received threats following its publication of information about the situation in a local prison.

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