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Honduras Shuts Down Broadcasters, Some Constitutional Rights Suspended

By Brian Wagner
29 September 2009

The interim government in Honduras has closed two news broadcasters and suspended some constitutional rights in response to the country's ongoing political crisis. In Tegucigal, officials say they are concerned that supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who has taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy, might seek to destabilize the country.

Honduran security forces shut down Cholusat TV and Globo radio after conducting raids on their offices in Tegucigalpa early Monday. The interim government says the stations are closely tied to ousted President Zelaya and accused them of seeking to provoke rebellion and unrest.

Globo radio's Internet Web site posted a recording of its final moments on the air.

The announcer said police were trying to take the station off the air in what he called an "attack" on the office.

The interim government also announced a ban on what it called press reports that threaten law and order in the country. The measure is part of a decree that suspends for 45 days some constitutional rights of Hondurans. Unauthorized meetings are banned. And authorities are allowed to conduct arrests without warrants.

Honduran lawmakers called on interim President Roberto Micheletti to reconsider the order. Mr. Micheletti met with several top lawmakers late Monday, including Antonio Rivera Callejas of the National Party.

Callejas said some lawmakers disagree with the limits on personal freedoms, especially because the move might taint the presidential elections scheduled for November.

Congress has the power to approve, modify or reject the president's order. But lawmakers say they have not yet received the appropriate legislation.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley expressed concern that limits on personal freedoms are hurting the Honduran people and the upcoming vote.

"We have said clearly to the de facto regime that because of the environment on the ground, we will not recognize the election as free and fair under the current circumstances," Crowley said.

Interim President Micheletti said he will consult with the nation's Supreme Court about possibly reversing the order on constitutional freedoms before the 45-day period expires. The de facto leader says his main concern is maintaining peace, amid calls from Mr. Zelaya's supporters to hold mass protests aimed at forcing the government out of power.

Mr. Micheletti said the decree will be reversed when officials are confident that conditions will remain peaceful, and that all presidential candidates and voters can take part in the elections.

The interim president has called on Brazil to resolve Mr. Zelaya's status. The ousted president took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa after secretly returning to the country last week. Mr. Zelaya says the interim government should step aside and allow him to complete his remaining months in office. Mr. Zelaya faces 18 criminal charges, since he was removed from office and flown out of the country in June.

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