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Honduras7 November 2006

Court dismisses security company’s libel suit against two journalists

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed a Tegucigalpa court’s decision on 31 October to dismiss the libel suit brought by the security company Setech against Robert Marín García and Dina Meza, who are journalists with the news website and members of the Association for a Fairer Society (ASJ).

The suit was prompted by their revelation that Delta Segurity, the company that owns Setech, had fired some of its employees and rehired them as Setech employees. They had also reported on questionable contracts between the company and the government.

ASJ was threatened by Delta Segurity staff at the start of September. Then, Delta Segurity owner Robert Swasey burst into ASJ’s offices accompanied by his lawyers on 19 September and proposed an out-of-court “settlement.”

22.09.06 - Journalists threatened by owner of private security company

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the harassment and intimidation of journalists with the Tegucigalpa-based Association for a Fairer Society (ASJ) by a privately-owned security company, Delta Segurity, ever since ASJ accused it of violating the rights of its employees.

“We are very worried about the threats that ASJ’s journalists, especially Dina Meza, have repeatedly received since the start of the month,” the press freedom organisation said. “We call on the police and judicial authorities to put an immediate stop to Delta Segurity’s attempts to intimidate journalists. Indeed, we are surprised they have not intervened already.”

Meza, who is ASJ’s project chief, began receiving telephone threats at the start of September. She said cars with no licence plates were also seen circling ASJ’s office and she was told an investigation would be carried out to verify ASJ’s legality. Some newspapers began carrying defamatory pieces about ASJ, casting doubt on the reputation of its journalists, their work and the association’s resources.

Finally, Delta Segurity owner Richard Swasey forced his way into ASJ’s offices on 19 September accompanied by lawyers, proposing an “out-of-court” solution to the dispute, to avoid a lawsuit. Meza replied that the case should be settled in the courts.

ASJ had reported that Delta Segurity, which is based in the Atlantic-coast city of La Ceiba, set up a subsidiary, Setech, in order to get government contracts more easily, and that it fired some of its employees in order to rehire them in the subsidiary in a way that was illegal and violated their labour rights. ASJ also alleged irregularities in Delta Segurity/Setech’s dealings with government agencies.

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in the annual report
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