10 seconds ago 2009-07-03T21:09:25-07:00
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduran troops detained seven international journalists covering the aftermath of a military coup Monday, freeing them unhurt a short time later. The government also took at least two television stations off the air and interrupted the broadcasts of others.
At least 10 soldiers, most with rifles drawn, arrived at the hotel where journalists from The Associated Press and the Venezuela-based television network Telesur were staying and unplugged their editing equipment in an apparent attempt to stop their coverage of protests in support of deposed President Manuel Zelaya.
One of the Telesur journalists was speaking on a telephone at the time of the detention, and AP's Nicolas Garcia saw a soldier lightly slapping her hand so she would hang up.
Garcia, an Argentine videojournalist, and Esteban Felix, a Peruvian photographer, and two Nicaraguan assistants were loaded into a military Land Cruiser, with another military vehicle following close behind. Also detained were Telesur journalists Adriana Sivori, producer Maria Jose Diaz and cameraman Larry Sanchez.
"They're taking us prisoner at gunpoint," Sivori told Telesur by telephone as she was being detained. Telesur is financed by Venezuela's government and its allies.
Garcia said the four AP journalists were taken to an immigration office where two officials demanded to see their Honduran visas. They were released after explaining they were journalists. Telesur confirmed that its journalists were also released.
The two officials who handled the journalists' cases refused to give their names.
Telesur said military officers also threatened another of its journalists, warning that others would be detained if the network continued to transmit images of protests in support of Zelaya, who was forced into exile on Sunday.
Soldiers also shut down Channel 8, the official broadcaster of the Zelaya government, and another television station sympathetic to his administration in the capital. Honduran reporters also said at least one Tegucigalpa radio station has been forced off the air.
When Zelaya was first arrested Sunday morning, power was cut throughout the capital and all radio and television stations went off the air or simply played traditional "marimba" music. Most networks resumed transmission a few hours later, but they have provided little coverage of the protests outside the military-occupied presidential palace.
The media apparently have been acting on orders from the government, though it is unclear who has been giving them. Soldiers have been posted around some television and radio stations and around the national power and phone companies.
Telesur and CNN en Espanol, the Spanish-language network of CNN, have broadcast news of the protests in Hondurans via cable television, but those transmissions have been interrupted intermittently.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said it is "deeply concerned by reports that several broadcasters have been taken off the air," calling the situation a "media blackout." Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International also expressed similar concerns.
Police and the Honduran military refused to comment on measures involving journalists Monday night.