November 20, 2009 / 4:55 PM / 10 years ago

Honduran channel says de facto govt blocks signal

TEGUCIGALPA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - A Honduran television station that backs deposed President Manuel Zelaya accused the de facto government of interfering with its broadcast signal on Friday, replacing news programs with cowboy movies.

The Honduran media has become a battleground between rival supporters of leftist Zelaya and the de facto government since a June 28 coup plunged the nation into political turmoil.

The director of Canal 36 blamed the programming interruption on de facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who has tightened controls over the media since taking charge of the country after the army ousted Zelaya.

A spokesman for the de facto government denied any involvement.

“The Micheletti government is responsible,” Esdras Amado Lopez, the channel’s director told Radio Globo, a pro-Zelaya radio station that was broadcasting as normal.

He said the channel’s morning news bulletin had been disrupted by intentional interference with its signal.

The channel was showing cowboy films before programming later stopped completely on Friday morning.

A Micheletti spokesman said the government “hadn’t given any order for any media to be blocked or taken off air.”

Last week, U.S. Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky accused the Micheletti government of disrupting Canal 36’s news shows since the coup in a visit to the TV station.

“There has been a complete violation of freedom of the press,” she told reporters.

Micheletti imposed restrictions on opposition media after Zelaya sneaked back into the country in September and sought refuge in the Brazilian Embassy. The curbs were lifted last month following strong international criticism.

Tensions are simmering in the country in the run-up to a Nov. 29 presidential election, which Latin American governments say they will only recognize if Zelaya is reinstated until the formal end of his term in January.

In recent days, opposition media have dedicated more and more airtime to Zelaya’s criticism of the election, which the de facto government says is vital to resolve the five-month-old political crisis. (Reporting by Tomas Sarmiento and Gustavo Palencia, editing by Vicki Allen)

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