Honduran journalist convicted in 2016 could go to prison after confirmation of sentence

On Jan. 11, the Honduran Supreme Court confirmed the sentence of a journalist who received 10 years in prison in 2016 for crimes of injuria and defamation.

Journalist David Romero Ellner, director of Radio Globo, and another group of journalists from the same media outlet, were sued in 2014 by former public prosecutor Sonia Inés Gálvez, wife of the former assistant attorney general of the Republic of Honduras, Rigoberto Cuellar. As a result of that suit, Romero was convicted in a criminal court for six crimes of defamation and injuria.

The journalist appealed, but the magistrates of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice unanimously confirmed the sentence issued in 2016, El Heraldo published.

"I am clear, we are aware with my lawyer that the next step is jail and that will take about three, five, six or seven days," Romero said, according to El Heraldo. Romero added that this decision is not legal, but political, the site published.

In the 2016 conviction, the judges also imposed a special disqualification and civil interdiction that would prevent him from working as a communicator while serving his sentence, according to La Prensa. Likewise, it reported he must work in the penitentiary center during his time in prison.

Noticias Honduras published that Romero denounced a case of corruption against the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS) through which the official party allegedly received millions in funds to finance the political campaign of the current Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández.

Amidst massive citizen protests, Hernández later said his campaign received funds from companies linked to the scandal, but he didn’t know where they had come from, EFE reported in 2015.

Romero told Once Noticias in an interview that it is not just a conspiracy against him, but against freedom of expression in Honduras. "We thought that this was not going to proceed because this is an absurd, abrupt sentence, without legal logic," Romero said. And he added in his defense that he is not a criminal, but that he is a journalist who has told the truth and went where many did not want to go.

Also, Romero told TN5 that what they want with this confirmation of sentence is to stop the investigations carried out with his journalistic team, which are allegedly about to reveal a network of corruption of the three branches of state in the current government.

According to past information from El Heraldo, in 2002, Gálvez as prosecutor was in charge of the investigation and subsequent denunciation for the crime of rape that Romero was accused of committing against his daughter. The site reported that because of this, the journalist was sentenced to 10 years in prison, of which he served 5 years in prison and another five years on parole.

Gálvez said that since February 2014, Romero repeatedly defamed her through his news programs, in a "clear desire to retaliate," El Heraldo reported.