Honduran journalist David Romero Ellner convicted of defamation

Honduran police arrests journalist David Romero Ellner on defamation claims

The Honduran police broke down the door of a radio station and arrested journalist David Romero, who is known for being a strong critic of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Romero, the director of Radio Globo, had taken refuge in the radio station’s offices after a court made public its decision to arrest him for a defamation conviction.

Prison sentence

In 2016, Romero was given a 10-year prison sentence after he was convicted on several counts of defamation for his reporting on the wife of a former attorney general. Honduras’ Supreme Court rejected Romero’s bid for a new trial earlier this year.

According to Presidency Minister Ebal Diaz, the police were unable to capture Romero because he had barricaded himself inside the radio station, so they decided to raid the premises to execute the court order.

Violent arrest

Local media footage shows a group of elite police agents violently breaking into Radio Globo, knocking down doors, and searching offices until they found Romero, who was then transferred to the Tamara prison on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa.

Despite the efforts of Romero’s supporters, who had been demonstrating outside of the radio station for days, they were unable to prevent his arrest.

As Romero was forced into a police vehicle, he made a statement saying,

“I know they can kill me and, if that happens, the person responsible is the President.” 

Honduras’ constitution guarantees its citizens the right to honor, and defamation is considered a crime against a person’s honor.

Honduran press

The Honduras-based Committee for Freedom of Expression has counted 41 criminal cases related to crimes against honor since 2003, including 13 targeting journalists.

The committee stated that these cases and the disproportionate sentences “have the effect of intimidation and self-censorship.” They have called for the decriminalization of such acts.

Romero had repeatedly denounced Hernandez and his family, accusing them of involvement in corruption and drug trafficking.

In response to Romero’s arrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists has asked the Honduran government to suspend the sentence against Romero and urged them to repeal laws that restrict press freedom.

The case of David Romero highlights the ongoing issues of press freedom and freedom of expression in Honduras.

The use of defamation laws as a tool to silence critical voices and the disproportionate sentences given to journalists are a cause for concern.

The Committee for Freedom of Expression and the Committee to Protect Journalists have both called for the decriminalization of such acts and for laws that restrict press freedom to be repealed.