Telesur and Venezuelan TV Journalists Arrested in Honduras

Source: Venezuela Analysis

The coup government of Honduras arrested Telesur and Venezuelan TV (VTV) journalists on Saturday night. The two channels, based in Venezuela, are the only channels globally to transmit ongoing coverage of the 28 June coup outcome, anti-coup demonstrations, and the constant regional meetings around the issue.

Since Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and taken to Costa Rica on 28 June, whilst there have been daily protests against the coup, most Honduran media have allied themselves with the coup government and have been broadcasting only regular programming.

The arrested journalists were released at about 3:30am, after the police checked their documents and told them to leave the country, Venezuelan pro-government media reported.

VTV producer Pedro Quesada reported that the police in the headquarters where they were taken were hooded and their excuse for the detention was that the vehicle Telesur had been using was supposedly wanted by the police.

"Get out of here, you all have to go, you don’t have anything to do in this country," one of the police reportedly said.

Telesur journalist Madelein Garcia reported that a police commission, under orders from the coup government, had entered the hotel where the Telesur team was staying, and detained them without explanation. She said she had information that the government immigration department would continue checking their documents today.

The hotel where they are staying was still surrounded this morning by police, with the journalists restricted from leaving unless they were accompanied by police.

VTV journalist Eduardo Silvera told the press from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, that, "This is a violation of freedom of expression, under the supposed justification that it was preventative detention, they arrested us and threatened to take away our telephones."

Silvera said after a long interrogation, the police said, "You can thank your President Chavez for this, get out of this country, this is going to turn ugly."

According to Venezuelan government media reports, the journalists were eventually released due to negotiations by the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry.

Quesada said the VTV crew were transported to the airport to leave Honduras, accompanied by representatives from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) and the Venezuelan Embassy in Honduras.

The CIDH denounced the detention and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that the government of Honduras had "detained the journalists…and I hold [current coup president Roberto Micheletti] Goriletti and his little gorillas responsible."

Jose Insulza, general secretary of the Organisation of American States said the whole thing was "very dangerous" as "the international community is [only] being informed by CNN and Telesur." The Latin American Federation of Journalists (Felap) also condemned the arrests, saying they violated the region’s right to information.

"Honduras is in danger of a political and historic setback… so it is fundamental that there are journalists there, fulfilling their work as witnesses of history," Ernesto Carmona, executive secretary of Felap said.

A range of other Honduran media also publicly expressed their disapproval of the arrests. During the coup, Channel 36 of Honduras was also taken off the air for a few days. Eldras Lopez, the director of that channel expressed his solidarity with the Telesur and VTV journalists.

"I’m in solidarity with you, as you have been with us. You provide balanced coverage and aren’t inciting anyone," he said.

This is the second time Telesur journalists have been detained in Honduras. On 29 June pro-coup military used force to detain the team which was at that time filming the military repression of a peaceful protest against the coup. The journalists were also beaten.