NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press filed legal papers on Thursday objecting to an attempt by top Honduran police officials to obtain phone records to try to identify sources behind a story detailing allegations of police corruption.
The AP reported last month that a confidential security report found that the top Honduran police official interceded on behalf of a convicted drug cartel kingpin.
The news cooperative, which is based in New York, argued that providing the phone records would violate Honduras’ constitution and have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.
“The Associated Press strongly opposes this effort by Honduras state police officers to intimidate our journalists and sources,” said Karen Kaiser, AP’s senior vice president and general counsel. “AP journalists will not be cowed by such attempts at intimidation.”
The AP stands by its story, Kaiser said.
In legal documents filed with a Honduran prosecutor, a lawyer for the AP expressed concern that the attorney for National Police Chief Jose David Aguilar Moran and two other top police officials was seeking an inquiry aimed at figuring out who spoke to the AP.
Doing so not only would violate Honduran commitments to press, speech and expression freedoms enumerated in the country’s constitution but also isn’t legally permitted in a potential defamation case, according to a national law that governs when and how the government can obtain private communications, the filing says.
The AP learned from local news reports that a lawyer for Aguilar, his deputy Orbin Alexis Galo Maldonado and the inspector general, Javier Cerrato Cruz, had asked that a prosecutor obtain the phone records. Such requests aren’t usually public, and the prosecutor’s office could ignore AP’s objections.
The AP reported last month that a confidential government security report had alleged that Aguilar interceded to help a shipment of 1,700 pounds (770 kilograms) of cocaine safely reach a cartel kingpin.
The trafficker, Wilter Blanco, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to move cocaine from Colombia to Honduras during a two-month period, is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Florida. Aguilar at the time was chief of intelligence for the Honduran National Police.
The Honduran government claims the investigative report is fake and the allegations against the police high command “lack veracity.”
Four current and former Honduran police officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of violent reprisal, confirmed elements of the confidential report to the AP.
The lawyer for the three men, in his request to prosecutors, sought an expert’s review of all calls made by an AP reporter to the cellphone of a police official and a demand to three mobile carriers for SIM numbers that would show calls to and from the reporter’s Mexican mobile number.