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Television journalist faces legal action for defamation; sports reporter assaulted by soccer player

(PROBIDAD/IFEX) - An education ministry official has initiated a legal action for defamation against Francisco Romero, host of the political affairs programme "Hablemos de Noche", broadcast on the Tegucigalpa-based television station Canal 45. The action stems from Romero's having discussed corruption on his programme two weeks before.

In mid-August 2006, Romero reported that Jance Juárez, the national coordinator of programmes and projects for the Secretariat of Education, was implicated in a series of illegal activities, especially nepotism, and others about which Romero did not go into great detail.

On 1 September, Romero reiterated that he had evidence to substantiate his accusations and also said that he had met with Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Rosales, to inform him of the situation.

"I am not afraid of anything; I'm not going to back away from this because I have compromising documents in my possession," said Romero, who cohosts, with journalist Fredy Guzmán, a public affairs programme that is broadcast from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. (local time).

In response to the allegations, the education official has initiated a legal action against Romero, and a court date will soon be set for a conciliatory hearing by which the two parties might reach an agreement, to avoid having the case go to trial.

According to Juárez, the accusations made against her are false; she says, "I deny having obtained employment for 36 of my relatives in the Secretariat; only two of my relatives are working there, under contract and legally. I myself am employed by contract."

The action against the journalist is the first such legal action directed at a journalist in 2006. Various journalists have faced such actions in the past two years, and some of these are still waiting for their cases to go to trial.

In a separate development, the Committee for Free Expression (Comité por la Libre Expresión, C-Libre), has also been informed of an assault on sports reporter Heribaldo Laínez on 19 August, by soccer player Jairo Martínez, a member of one of the main teams in the capital city.

Martínez was upset by certain articles in which he felt Laínez had twisted his words, and when Laínez approached him with a tape recorder for an interview, Martínez struck him in the face. Laínez works for (the newspaper "Diario Tiempo", based in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, and for Radio America, a national radio station.

C-Libre has documented at least five incidents of physical assault against journalists - two committed by public officials, one by police officers, and two by teachers on strike for better salaries at the beginning of August.

In January 2005, journalist Octavio Carvajal informed C-Libre that he had received threats from political figures during the electoral campaign. In May 2006, he was again threatened and became the first journalist to temporarily flee the country, until the government can offer him and his family sufficient protection, due to fear for their personal safety (see IFEX alert of 11 May 2006).

This alert was prepared by PROBIDAD with information provided by C-Libre.

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