As international alarm around Honduras grows over the country’s human rights crisis, the Honduran journalist who broke major stories of government corruption last year, David Romero Ellner, has been handed down a 10 year sentence for six counts of libel and defamation in yet another blow to freedom of expression in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in Latin America.
“This is the culmination of a manipulated process with the intent to silence us,” Romero said on his radio program after learning of the sentence.
Judges unanimously sentenced Romero on Tuesday to one year and eight months for each of the six crimes he was found guilty of last November, adding up to a total of 10 years jail time, local media reported.
David Romero arrives to his hearing in Tegucigalpa on Nov. 13, 2015.
The announcement comes after multiple delays, as his sentence was initially expected at the end of January.
But Romero vowed to continue to champion free speech and resistance.
“We are not going to tire as long as we have the power of the word. We’re going to keep doing it,” Romero said in a radio broadcast. “We’re going to denounce the rogue and corrupt ones by their names. We are not alone, there are many observing eyes, especially in the international community.”
The defense has 20 days to lodge an appeal against the sentence before Romero goes behind bars.
Romero heads a program called “Interpreting the News” on Honduras’ Globo TV and broke the story last year that implicated the ruling National Party in received at least US$90 million of an estimated US$300 million stolen from the Honduran Social Security Institute.
The massive corruption scandal outraged a wide cross section of Honduran society and sparked months of popular protests calling for an end to corruption and the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
According to the Latin American Federation of Journalists, Honduras is the second most dangerous country in the region for journalists after Mexico.