PEN American Center calls for implementation of IACHR ‘precautionary measures’ for persecuted reporter

NEW YORK—A court order prohibiting journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado from leaving Honduras marks a new low in a years-long state campaign to bar Alvarado from reporting to which officials must put a definitive end, PEN American Center said in a statement today.

PEN International reported this morning that Honduran authorities had denied Alvarado permission to leave Honduras to attend a meeting on his case convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today in Washington, D.C. According to reports, airport authorities informed Alvarado that his passport was flagged with a “migration alert” connected to an alleged case of identity theft.

Mr. Alvarado was convicted on charges of criminal defamation in 2013 based on his 2006 coverage of alleged corruption by Belinda Flores, dean of the Economic Science Faculty of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. In addition to a fine, Alvarado was sentenced to a 16-month ban on his work as a journalist, which he has thrice appealed unsuccessfully. The IACHR—the human rights arm of the Organization of American States—in 2014 ordered the Honduran state to suspend the implementation of Alvarado’s sentence pending investigation of his case by the international body. Honduran authorities have failed to comply.

“The Honduran authorities’ outrageous disregard for press freedom has reached a new low,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director at PEN American Center. “The state’s actions today against Mr. Alvarado not only explicitly defy the IACHR’s orders, they actively hinder the processes of an international body to which it is a state party. Honduras must put an immediate end to its interference in the work of independent journalists and implement the precautionary measures for Alvarado ordered by the IACHR.”

A surge of attacks on journalists has seriously undermined freedom of expression in Honduras with almost complete impunity for perpetrators in recent years. A 2014 report produced by PEN International, PEN Canada, and the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, documents the rise of violence directed against journalists since the June 2009 coup d’état. Since then, at least 32 Honduran journalists have been killed with near complete impunity and many more continue to work in a climate of fear and self-censorship.

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,200 U.S. writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide.

CONTACT:
Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director: snossel@pen.org, +1.646.779.4811
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1.646.779.4830