Former President Manuel Zelaya and the Honduran Opposition Alliance are calling for protests against the proposed reform to the Communications Law in the capital today.
The reform is being called the “gag” law by the Alliance and others who oppose it saying the reform will double the government’s control of traditional airwaves and social media platforms.
The reform will allow the government to monitor and control social media posts within and out of Honduras, opponents say.
“Unacceptable” is what the Honduran ombudsman, Héctor Roberto Herrera is calling the reform. The administration “believes they have unlimited powers and they were designated to abuse their powers”, Herrera said in a press conference.
“These government officials must be reminded they don’t have any more powers than what the constitution allows them,” he added.
If the reform is passed it would allow lawmakers and officials to decide if social media posts transmit “hate and discrimination.”
The Opposition Alliance and organizations such as the Human Rights of Honduras say that the proposed reform is a way for President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) to legally censure anti-government posts.
Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook have been the main form of communication among the Opposition Alliance and anti-Hernandez protesters who have been demonstrating against the re-election of JOH since polls closed Nov. 26.
The Opposition is saying that Hondurans depend on their social media accounts to know what is happening politically because “traditional” media outlets - t.v. and newspapers - are biased towards JOH and his ruling National Party making their information unreliable.
The reform, which would also increase the amount of government-controlled airwaves from 34 to 67 percent, was introduced by Marcos Bertilio Paz of the congressional majority, National Party.
“Congress is starting to debate the (communication) Law to combat hate and discrimination campaigns via the Internet”, Congress tweeted.
The reform is “to protect people against political, ethnic and religious differences”, read the congressional tweet.
Yadira Bendaña, a congresswoman from the Opposition Alliance coalition said the law is meant to “intimidate those who aren’t aligned with the government.”
“At its base (this reform) is meant to intimidate. … Little by little (the administration) is appropriating all State powers and that’s not healthy for society”, Bendaña added.
Television corporations are also criticizing the potential reform. Rafael Villeda Ferrari, from the private media outlet Televicentro said the government is violating the rights of businesses and freedom of expression.
Congress did not provide a copy of the proposed Communication Law reform when requested by TeleSUR.