Reporters Without Borders today condemned the action of the Honduran College of Journalists (CPH) in reporting 43 people to the authorities for working as journalists without belonging to a professional association. The CPH said it also suspected them of using their positions as journalists to get advertising contracts and derive other benefits.
“The CPH is confusing two issues,” Reporters Without Borders said. “That some journalists use their profession for questionable ends is already established and deserves to be condemned. But what guarantee does membership of a professional association offer against such behaviour? And conversely, in what way does non-membership of such a group prevent one from working honestly as a journalist?
The press freedom organisation added: “Aside from the issue of journalists informing on other journalists, we object to a corporatist definition of journalism as it is contrary to freedom of expression and information.”
In the view of CPH president Juan Ramón Mairena, there has been an “alarming” increase in the illegal practice of journalism, “largely sustained by the profits which the usurping journalists get from advertising contracts, some of them with the state.”
Mairena filed a petition with the Honduran court of accounting on 11 May proposing that “for every advertising contract with a news or opinion outlet, a certificate of professional membership and a certificate of solvency issued by the CPH treasurer should be presented in advance.”
According to the Honduran Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre), the following day Mairena gave state prosecutor Jari Dixon the names of 43 alleged “usurpers.” The list included people studying journalism at state and private universities, police officers and even a retired army officer.
The CPH petition violates the Organisation of American States convention on free expression, which says membership of a professional body should be optional for journalists. The same principle is upheld in the Declaration of Chapultepec, which the Inter-American Press Association issued on 11 March 1994.
The CPH and the Association of the Honduran Press (APH) are the two main journalists’ unions in Honduras. There is also the Union of Workers in Press, Printing and Similar Trades (Sitinpres). Some independent, academic and community journalists refuse to join any of the associations.