Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Silencing the Opposition

As part of a set of legal reforms to the criminal code, the Honduran Congress has passed a new law directed at members of the media that "incite hate or attack against ideological groups, sexes, or genders".  This new law is in addition to the existing libel/slander laws in Honduras.  The new penal code contains a revision to Article 321 which reportedly now reads:
To those who publicly, or through public communications media incite discrimination, hate, contempt, persecution, or any form of violence or attack against a person, group, association, foundations, societies, corporations, NGOs, for any of the causes enumerated above, is imposed a file of 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 - 300,000 lempiras.

The punishment is applied to the person who makes the statement, not the media itself.  It can be applied to anyone who violates the provision while performing their professional, sales, or business activities, or anyone doing so while in public service.

That breadth of coverage should give a reader pause. Where are the limits of this law?

There are already indications about where it comes from that should warn us to be cautious about celebrating enhanced legal protection against speech. The head of the Honduran Congress, Juan Orlando Hernandez, said of the new law:
The important thing is to have as a starting point respect for the dignity of the person, which is a fundamental principle of the international human rights system now I can proceed against those who call me a Lenca Indian or Juan Tortilla.

If the new law is used as as suggested, it could silence dissent as illegal disrespect for the "dignity" of Honduran politicians-- like Juan Orlando Hernandez. 

As commenter "Amargada" (embittered) put it:
What a disaster.  Instead of concentrating on the crime (killing women) they had the time to intimidate and place fines on the media who have the job of informing the country of all that passes in the corrupt country of the wonders of Don Pepe Lobo.

Enough said.

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