Honduras crisis unleashes media wars
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:
PHOTOS BY REUTERS show Zelaya on the border on July 24 and pro-Micheletti supporters a few days after the June 28 coup.