Honduras to Drop Criminal Defamation from New Penal Code

General view of the Honduran National Congress during the installation of the first legislature of the period 2018-2022, in Tegucigalpa on January 25, 2018. – Honduran reelected president Juan Orlando Hernandez, who is to begin his second term on January 27 amid fraud accusations, did not attend the session. (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA / AFP)

HAVANA TIMES – The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed an announcement by the Honduran National Congress that the country will decriminalize defamation and slander.

On August 26, Mario Perez, the president of the commission to revise the nation’s penal code, announced that the new code will not include so-called “crimes against honor,” such as defamation, libel, and slander, which will instead be moved to the civil code, according to news reports and a statement by the congress. The revised code will also eliminate rules that make staffers at media outlets criminally responsible for their employer’s output, according to those reports. The changes to the code, which were approved by congress, will go into effect when the new code enters into force on November 10, those reports said.

“The decision by the Honduran congress to eliminate crimes against honor from the penal code and join the growing regional consensus that civil remedies provide adequate redress for cases of defamation is a positive step,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “In a country where journalists face huge challenges, the decision to decriminalize defamation is a welcome victory for press freedom in Honduras.”

Honduran TV reporter Ariel Armando D’Vicente was convicted of criminal defamation in 2016, and Radio Globo director David Romero Ellner is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for defamation, according to CPJ reporting. According to a report in local daily El Heraldo, Romero will be eligible to appeal his sentence under the new penal code.