Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Riots versus legitimate freedom of expression: What is an appropriate law and order measure?

The media battle to frame what happened in Honduras with Zelaya's return (and his removal from power) has begun already. The need exist to keep law and order in the country and thus the curfew established by the transition government. When the 'resistencia' exercised its constitutional right to demonstrate in a peaceful manner, nothing happened for several days in a row. In fact, security forces escorted the manifestations to ensure that no provocation or disturbance occurred. Furthermore, these forces did not intervene even when some demonstrators painted buildings with slogans against the "dictatorship" to the chagrin of those building and house owners who's property was being defaced then and there.

When these legal expressions of opinion turned to burning cars, throwing stones, infringing on the rights of others by destroying property and risking the physical integrity of third parties; then we should expect a measured response by the police. If specific police persons exceeded a generally accepted standard of measured response, then this becomes an issue for legal penalties. Obviously, not every member of Mel's supporters is a vandal o committed these common crimes. In fact, the ones committing crimes may be a minority. Unfortunately, at this point observers such as us -or the police- cannot differentiate one from the other.

Obviously, with any measured response by security forces entails the possibility that people will get hurt. Riot control around the world, even in well established democracies, have shown this fact. So, we have to be careful about those claims of repression or the competing claim that nobody got hurt.

We need to go back to the dialogue table and find a solution in Honduras. We do not need the interference from outsiders. The violent demonstrations have to stop and this has to start by Mr. Zelaya ordering his accolites to do so, and Mr. Micheletti simultaneously lifting the curfew, while both agreeing to a dialogue to resolve this issue. See my previous posting for my proposal to do so.

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