Honduras crisis unleashes media wars

July 26, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA – When ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya made a symbolic (and brief) return to his homeland on Friday, what could have been a potentially dangerous situation turned out to be a show for live television — a far cry from the bloody coups of the past in Latin America.

Even as he walked toward the border in sight of Honduran security forces waiting to arrest him, Zelaya, in his trademark cowboy hat, took a call from CNN’s Spanish language channel and conducted a long interview with the broadcaster.

The de facto leader of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, dismissed the scene as a media circus, “irresponsible, ill conceived and not very serious.”

Micheletti’s interim government has been using the media, too.

State television has been repeatedly playing rousing music over pictures of pro-Micheletti marches and slogans urging Hondurans to “Hold Firm” for peace and democracy. One of the most frequently played pieces is the stirring theme music from the 1980s movie about U.S. Navy fighter pilots, “Top Gun.”

Periodically, authorities cut transmission on all cable channels and broadcast announcements about curfews on local TV stations. Uniformed police officers are hosting news programs. 

At the time when Zelaya was staging his symbolic come-back on the border, state TV stations were showing a meeting of an electoral committee and a demonstration by Hondurans waving blue and white flags and holding placards (some in English) praising Micheletti and denouncing Zelaya.

Television spots accusing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a socialist and ally of Zelaya, of orchestrating the coup are also frequent. 

Venezuelan TV channel Telesur has been blocked in Honduras, leaving many with cable to rely on CNN en Espanol as their main source of television news from outside Honduras. (Spanish speakers should read this article by my colleague Juana Casas)

Most Honduran newspapers support the new government and a pro-Zelaya radio station, Radio Globo, is the one of the few Honduran news outlets giving airtime to Zelaya himself.

This may be the age of the Internet, but Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and Zelaya’s supporters, as he tells it, are “the people.”

Some supporters of Micheletti have been using the Internet to try to persuade the outside world that Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup. To read a lively debate on this matter see this blog I wrote earlier in the month.

As the crisis drags on with no immediate sign of a solution, tell us who you think is winning the media war.  

Check out some of the web sites of the Honduran newspapers here:

La Tribuna, La Prensa, El Heraldo, Tiempo

PHOTOS BY REUTERS show Zelaya on the border on July 24 and pro-Micheletti supporters a few days after the June 28 coup.


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Why does Reutors continue to call this a “coup?” The military was acting on orders from the Honduran Supreme Court. The military didn’t take over. They simply enforced existing law. If Obama got arrested for drunk driving, we’d want him to pay the penelty of breaking exisiting law, wouldn’t we?

The US needs to stay out of this. It’s a Honduran matter. Let them govern. They’re doing things by the book. This isn’t a coup. It’s enforcement of the law.

Posted by Gerhardt Gast | Report as abusive

Being a family member/grandparent of Mission Lazarus workers in Southern Honduras, I follow as much of the coverage as possible. Best I can tell, the only error committed by the current administration, innitially, was in deporting Jelaya instead of holding him for the Courts — of course we here also understand the reasoning for getting him out of the country, an effort to defuse probable confrontation with his Chavez backed supporters. The situation there has proven a difficult one for U.S. Diplomats who can not be seen as supporting “A COUP” yet certainly are at odds with Chavez, et al efforts and 21st Century Socialism efforts. No doubt the “PEOPLE” deserve a more active/participatory voice in their governments affairs, but a way must be found within their constitutional boundaries. Our prayer is that God lends direction to the People, their Civil, Military, and Political Leaders, ellected or appointed, that a JUST Peace will be restored to Honduras.
Sherry C. Hartsell, Gilmer, TX

Posted by sherry c. hartsell | Report as abusive

[…] Reuters has an interesting piece on the degree to which the conflict in Honduras is being played out in the media:Honduras crisis unleashes media wars. […]

Posted by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Making #Honduras Safe for Democracy | Report as abusive

“As the crisis drags on with no immediate sign of a solution, tell us who you think is winning the media war.”

The media, of course.

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

I think the Micheletti government will win out in the end, as the media becomes more interested in this crisis.

Mr. Zelaya is actually helping the situation with his childish antics. Antics which grab media attention and sell copy. The responsible journalists who are drawn into this “entertainment feature of the day” feeding frenzy will realize there is a more complex story here which deserves to be told.

Thusfar, most of the media has only given cursory attention to Honduras and many trumpet the party line that this is just another Latin American illegal power grab. The fact that it has the appearance of a military coup is most unfortunate and blurs the facts.

The truth requires further investigation. The responsible journalists will dig out the facts and educate the rest of the world which has so far labeled this an “illegal coup”.

Hopefully, for the Honduran people, more responsible and balanced news coverage will help accelerate a peaceful settlement.

Posted by Joe in Honduras | Report as abusive

It stands to reason that the media would play a large part in such a crisis, it is just frustrating to see this described as a ‘military coup’. A ‘coup’ yes but not a ‘military coup’ as the miilitary were acting on Supreme Court orders. Now, anyone who lives in Honduras will know why the Supreme Court sent in the Military, as the Police force here is pretty incompetent and corrupt, but the Military did not take power, an interim government took power as per the laws in the constitution.

I see some of the media now calling the Michiletti governement ‘military backed’ – this is a slight back-track but still purveys the picture of a ‘military coup’, which is completely wrong

Until the media make a categorical backtrack and say to the world that this was not a Military led coup there can be no respect in any of the other journalistic opinion that they put on it.

Posted by Jack O’Byte | Report as abusive

International media coverage on Honduras is nothing but a complete misrepresenation of reality inside Honduras.
Watch what the people of Honduras people really want for their own nation, which they won’t broadcast internationally :


After watching 30 of these you see there is 0 chance of Zelaya ever to return in office.

Posted by Ke Jac | Report as abusive

I am a Honduran Native and have 4 sons that are Honduran American and I as my husband want them to be proud of both countries.
As this has been onfolding the oldestof my sons said he no longer wish to know much of Honduras, this is sad situation that makes me feel so bad ’cause what i see is that neither of the 2 climing the presidency seem to really care for the welfair of the country or it’s people only for their personal problems and greed.
If the media want the real story just ask the people of the country that are living the situation, not the spokesmen that says what he is paid to say.

Posted by Carroll | Report as abusive

International media is not reporting the truth. What about the 40,000+ people that marched AGAINST Zelaya in San Pedro Sula on Friday?

Why does the international media keep calling it a “coup”?

The good thing is that now the international media covering Zelaya “live” will get to see what a selfish, egocentric clown he is and why the Honduran people cannot stand him.

Also, why doesnt the international media cover the news on how the 150 people who went to the border to support Zelaya are now in Nicaragua, with no food or shelter. No means to go back to their homes. Zelaya spent US$80,000 in a week on new clothes, hotels and food using the government’s credit card. He is on the border in a hotel not missing any meals and being serenated by mariachis. Why is he not trying to feed and shelter his supporters? Because Zelaya only cares about Zelaya – that is why. It is time for the world to understand this.

Posted by pao | Report as abusive

Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution:

“No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.”

“Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”

We have seen nations, newspapers and people refer to what happened in Honduras as a “coup”.

But as you can see, it isn’t. The president disqualified himself, according to an expressed provision of the Honduras constitution.

The moment Zelaya attempted to change the constitution, under Article 239 he immediately ceased to be president and his position was forfeit.

So there was no “coup”, because by the time the military deported Zelaya, he was merely a citizen. His status as president was already gone.

America, Venezuala and the world media know this very well. They just hope the rest of us don’t bother to do our research.

Zelaya forced deportation was simply to stop any further attempts by him to breach the constitution.

His recent actions to use his supporters and the sanctions of other nations to combat his own constitutional removal, is proof that his deportation was justified.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

I am from the US and work with a small humanitarian group near La Ceiba. The vast majority of Hondurans and ex-pats living in Honduras support the LEGAL transfer of government to Michelletti. That’s what it was.

Zelaya certainly was not the only corrupt president of Honduras but his attempt to extend his term limit is considered treason under the Honduran constitution. This is why he was removed from office.

Per your article . . . there may be a media war about Honduras but it’s the international media that hasn’t made the time to go there and see the truth of the situation first hand and has made a mess. If you go to Honduras, you will see the truth.

Posted by Eve Horowitz | Report as abusive

I have lived through two administrations here in Honduras. Reality shows that all the people of Honduras want is for the media to tell the “WHOLE” truth. Show high wide angle shots on television of both sides of the demonstration. This will give the world a true idea of how the Honduran people feel.. A few hundred supporters of Zelaya or a street full of pro-Micheletti supporters seven kilometers long is a huge difference that has not been shown to the people of the United States. Also even the label “pro-Micheletti” is not fully the reality. The people of Honduras are “anti-Chavista” they do NOT want to become another Cuba..

Posted by Expat Yank | Report as abusive

It appears the author of this article is clearly biased and in favour of Mr. Zelaya. This is exactly what has trigered the so called media war, as some reporters appear to support Zelaya´s telenovela and do not reflect the truth of what has happened in Honduras in their articles. what we all have witnessed is the LEGAL transfer of government to the head of congress, Mr. Micheletti, in a country feedup from the erratic, disrepectful and unconstitutional behaviour of their former head of state.

Posted by viviana schnatze | Report as abusive

I was under the impression that the United States and Europe were trying to keep the world free of communism. They constantly send their own armed forces to free countries being held “against their will”. How about not sending any forces to Honduras at this time, but just sit back and listen to what the people who live there have to say.

Posted by Brenda | Report as abusive

Why can’t all of you see that the cold war is over? There is no communist threat you have to fight against with help of the military, but there are deep social divisions.
Does the constitution allow the Court to order the military to act against his superior?? This is simply wrong and a step back to bad old days!
And I know the realities in Central America. Don’t you know how polarized the situation is? Try to calm down and see things more rationally. Everybody has to work together in this (and I am not with Zelaya or Chávez).
You are just afraid of the growing part of the population excluded of all political and economic processes.
Who is represented in Cogress? Did Congress have the authority to “vote” for a president in name of “the people”? Who is the people having political power? Is this still a democracy or better to speak a partidocracia de una oligarquía?

Posted by Pascal | Report as abusive

The Supreame Court is responsible for upholding the constitution and preventing any breach. Thus, it has the power to use the military to uphold this purpose.

Zeyela breached the constitution. As soon as the court made a finding that he had breached the constitution, he stopped being president.

As the police are controlled by the executive (ie. the president), the military was the safest option for the court to remove Zeyela from power.

The Honduran legislature has voted overwhelmingly in support of the court ruling, the court ruling remains legitimate.

Obama has really messed up here. He is attempting to return a man to power who has been removed legitimately due to breaching his country’s constitution.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive

It was, is and will be an unconstitional procedure to take out the President by force of the military. There is no justification for this at all. If there was “a breach of constitution” there must have been a fair trial. But the use of force is not an adequate means.
Finally it is Micheletti and the military who breach the constitution and take the country back to the times were presidents in Central America could no longer be sure of fullfilling there mandates. This is a clear step backwards in a country which so much needs more political participation and socioeconomic progress for all its people.

Posted by Pascal | Report as abusive

“ARTICULO 313.- Los Tribunales de Justicia requerirán el auxilio de la Fuerza Pública para el cumplimiento de sus resoluciones; si les fuera negado o no lo hubiere disponible, lo exigirán de los ciudadanos.”

“El que injustificadamente se negare a dar auxilio incurrirá en responsabilidad.”


“ARTICLE 313 .- The courts will require the assistance of the security forces to fulfill their resolutions, or if this is refused or not available, as required of the citizens.”

“Anyone who unreasonably refuses to give such aid will be subject to liability.”

This means the courts had the constitutional power to use the military to enforce their legal decision.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive