Supreme Court in Honduras bars TV anchor from working as a journalist for 16 months

By Samantha Badgen

Honduran journalist Julio Ernesto Alvarado, from television channel Globo TV, was sentenced to 16 months of prison for defaming Belinda Flores Mendoza, dean of the School of Economic Sciences at the Autonomous University of Honduras. He’ll be able to avoid serving out his sentence in prison by paying a daily fine of 10 lempiras (about $246 in total); however, while he serves out his sentence he won’t be able to work as a journalist, since the court forbade him from taking part in any activity related to broadcasting information during the 16 months.

Alvarado, who directed the programs “Medianoche” of Radio Globo and “Mi Nación” of Globo TV, was sentenced as a result of a lawsuit filed by Flores de Mendoza after Carlos Gustavo Villela, a professor at the same university who appeared on Alvarado’s program, denounced irregularities in her appointment as dean of the school. The lawsuit was filed against Alvarado, Villela and one other professor.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a court in Tegucigalpa declared the men innocent, Flores de Mendoza appealed the decision before the Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling and declared Alvarado guilty of defamation, saying that by broadcasting the professors' opinions he damaged Flores de Mendoza’s reputation.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and PEN International condemned the court’s decision and considered it politically motivated.

“We strongly disapprove of the court’s decision to prevent this journalist from doing his job of reporting news and information,” said Camille Soulier, the head of RSF's Americas desk. “We urge the court to recognize the absurd nature of the case against him and to overturn this disproportionate and draconian sentence without delay.”

This isn’t the first time Alvarado has suffered for practicing his profession. A year ago he was forced to suspend his program “Medianoche” after being stalked for several suspicious individuals that entered the building of Radio Globo and Globo TV, an act that the security guards said had every intention of killing the reporter.

These attacks became so habitual that in 2012 Alvarado suspended his program’s broadcast, which used to transmit critiques and reports against the police and the armed forces.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.