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Protests, press caught up in new Honduras anti-terror laws

February 23, 2017

Protesters and journalists risk falling afoul of new anti-terror laws passed in Honduras this week as part of a tougher government crackdown on vicious gangs.

The reforms, passed by lawmakers since Tuesday at the behest of President Juan Orlando Hernandez’ administration, were objected to by the opposition.

The changes designate as a terrorist act any form of “illegal association” and any act designed to “intimidate or cause terror or force the state and international organization to make some sort of action.”

Each of those laws — which carry punishment of up to 50 years in prison — could be applied against demonstrators, the opposition warned.

A separate legislative change by the unicameral Congress made it a crime to defend any acts deemed to be terrorism, with a penalty of up to eight years in prison.

That law is aimed at anybody using the media or channels “aimed at the public” to try to justify or incite terrorist acts.

The president went on state television and radio to thank the lawmakers for adopting the changes.

The changes come at a time that authorities are cracking down on gangs attacking public transport and threatening to set fire to buses with passengers on board if extortion demands are not met.

So far this year, more than a dozen people on bus services have been murdered by the gangs, companies say. Last year, a total of 215 people were killed.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.