Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Honduras is a Five-Star Country
by Beatriz Lovo Reichmann

In every country, there are events that mark a before and an after in the way of life of its people. In Honduras, there are two such events in recent history: Hurricane Mitch, the deadliest in the history of humanity, and the political events of 2009 that polarized and divided the country and engulfed Hondurans in despair, helplessness and later on courage and pride.

In June 2009, Manuel Zelaya, president at the time, intended to illegally perpetuate himself in office, to what Congress, the Supreme Court, the Human Rights entities and the People (I among them)responded NO.

And as if to say that a people can only fight for their freedom if they have been 20 or 30 years under the rule of tyrant, the international community abandoned us; the country lost recognition from every international organization to which it belonged: the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the International Monetary Fund, just to name a few…as if we had been beggars instead of partners.  And yet, there we were; unrecognized but screaming, and kicking and fighting.

It was called a coup and not what it really was: a presidential succession based on Honduran law. The constitution of Honduras states, in cases where the President is asked to resign, the President of Congress should be sworn into office…and so it was done. Roberto Michelletti became the president we needed at the time, if only for a few months. Presidential elections were held in November of that year, programmed. It is this election in which more Hondurans, in-country and abroad have participated.

Thus, a new president was elected: Porfirio Lobo Sosa (not related to the author). Many thought he would be the answer to our prayers. But, what this man has yet to realize is that people didn’t necessarily vote for him; they voted against the other candidate affiliated to Zelaya’s party.

And so there began a new term of excess, corruption, overspending…In the last few months, not having learned the lesson that Zelaya now understands, Lobo has attempted to trample on Honduran’s most basic right: Freedom of Expression of Thought.

Honduran information media have become a true watchdog: that 4th power of government that every democracy needs. And, in order to force government into action, it has uncovered, reported, revealed every act of corruption and inefficiency of the president and all those in office.

So, on March 2013, Lobo decided to send to Congress a gag law regulating telecommunications, changing it so that it would “benefit the majority”, as if the “majority” couldn’t see that he was the only one obtaining benefit.

CONATEL (National Commission on Telecommunications) is a state-owned, the decentralized entity that regulates, coordinates and administrates telecommunications policy in Honduras. It does NOT, regulate media content for any reason or purpose.

Lobo Sosa proposed to form a commission adjacent to CONATEL that would exercise prior censorship on media content, enforce confiscation mechanisms and promote direct government intervention on news and information. I addition, the new law would include regulation on trade and commerce.

The Constitution of the Republic of Honduras guarantees Freedom of Expression of Thought, stating that freedom of expression and information are INVIOLABLE. “Every inhabitant, without prior censorship, can express his/her thoughts, provide and receive information and discuss own opinion or that of others through written and spoken media or any other graphic, audio-visual or printed procedure.”

So, as we did in June, 2009, we marched and protested and made ourselves heard. The people united again, along with the Association of Communication Media of Honduras, the Association of Advertising Agencies of Honduras, the Association of Independent Radio Distributors of Honduras, the Honduran Council for Private Enterprise, the National Association of Industrials and a dozen other groups that said NO and exerted pressure on Congress to reject the law. And the law was rejected.

And now we await another presidential election. Lobo Sosa will have to step down, but there doesn’t seem to be one single candidate that could truly work for the benefit of the many. Our immediate future looks dim; our democracy is young and feeble and fragile. But we’ll keep on fighting because we are a five-star country.

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