LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Radio Globo and Channel 36 announce return of President Zelaya; Coup president Micheletti eventually agrees they are right
In the broadcasting room at Radio Globo yesterday morning, journalists Gustavo Blanco, Eduardo Maldonado, and Rony Martínez took turns announcing into their microphones the sudden arrival of Honduran President Mel Zelaya to Tegucigalpa 86 days after the military coup that ousted him. While announcing, the three simultaneously extracted information from the internet, television, and their respective cell phones and maintained communications with a dozen other station employees via hand gestures.
Repetition was the primary tactic of the morning’s news coverage, as Blanco, Maldonado, and Martínez emphasized that Zelaya’s arrival had been confirmed by a variety of entities including the US State Department, the President of Guatemala, and Hugo Chávez – who was additionally reported as declaring that Zelaya had traveled over mountains and rivers for two days to reach Honduras after more traditional methods had proved unsuccessful. Other tactics employed by the Radio Globo journalists included the “informe de úúúúúúúúúltima hora” and the “flash informativo,” two characterizations of breaking news, the latter of which entailed a recording that repeated: “Flash. Flash. Flash” and caused animated whispering in the newsroom. Repetition of Zelaya’s arrival was meanwhile necessitated for a number of reasons, such as that Radio Globo was one of the few stations reporting it and that it had been denied by coup president Roberto Micheletti.
I had coincidentally been planning to visit Radio Globo yesterday anyway in order to document the role of the Tegucigalpa-based news and talk station in the coup resistance. Boasting 14 affiliates throughout the country, the station’s mobilizing power was recognized early on by the coup regime, which attempted three times this summer to shut it down. On my way out the door, I was informed by the hotel owner that my friend had returned to Honduras; confused, I asked him to identity said friend, whereupon he flipped to Channel 36, the sole anti-coup television station, which currently featured a picture of Zelaya’s face.
In a shared taxi to Francisco Morazán Boulevard, location of Radio Globo, an elderly female passenger scoffed that Zelaya’s return was simply a rumor concocted by the anti-coup media to incite the masses. The taxi driver agreed and referred to Zelaya as “el Bigote” – the Mustache – but nonetheless exploited pro-Zelaya slogans and thumbs-up signals in exchange for traffic-related favors from vehicles in support of the resistance. He subsequently proved adept at inciting the masses himself when he spotted a pedestrian resembling the coup president and began shouting out the window, “Hey, Micheletti!”
The elderly female passenger reformed her analysis of the situation slightly when we observed that the United Nations office in Tegucigalpa, where Zelaya was initially reported to be stationed, was blocked by military vehicles. The woman conceded that such a display could not have been incited by the anti-coup media as they did not have control over the military and expressed displeasure at the taxi driver’s rhetorical question of who did have control over the military at this point; the fact that the anti-coup media had nonetheless reported the truth did not meanwhile alter her conviction regarding its inflammatory nature.
A different perspective prevailed at Radio Globo, where Eduardo Maldonado emphasized over his microphone that Zelaya had returned in the interest of national reconciliation and peace and that bloodbaths or any other sort of confrontation were undesirable. As for supporters of the resistance en route to the capital from all over Honduras, Maldonado stated that he was not going to tell them not to come but urged them to do so with prudencia and tranquilidad. Gustavo Blanco followed up with a call for tolerancia and proposed that the current situation did not have to be viewed in terms of winners and losers.
Radio Globo’s appeals for order amidst the chaos defy the charges of media terrorism that have been leveled against its journalists by the coup regime. Such charges fail to take into account alternate definitions of media terrorism that might be construed, such as the violence perpetrated by Honduran military soldiers against the staff of Radio Globo on the day of the coup or the pouring of acid on broadcasting equipment belonging to Radio Globo and Channel 36. To guard against further attacks yesterday, Radio Globo was keeping close watch over its premises, especially the door to the studio, and had additionally requested that a contingent of resistance members gather outside the building as a deterrent. The guarding of the Channel 36 premises meanwhile resulted in my being politely denied entrance to the building yesterday afternoon based on the station’s repeated receipt of death threats.
I spoke with a cameraman outside Channel 36 who was filming a military helicopter circling over the hills of Tegucigalpa and who asserted that Micheletti’s take on the current situation consisted solely of “mentiras” – lies. Rony Martínez had alluded to the coup president’s disingenuous nature earlier that day at Radio Globo, where he noted Micheletti’s fake smile in the aftermath of Zelaya’s homecoming and stated that this was the first time he had seen the coup president so uncomfortable. Micheletti’s discomfort may have been one of the factors contributing to the declaration of a 4 p.m. curfew yesterday which was promptly extended to 6 p.m. today – a total of 26 hours thus far – although he attempted to mask said discomfort in an evening speech in which he admitted that Zelaya was in fact in Honduras but denied that his presence indicated any sort of change in the Honduran reality.
Micheletti’s speech lacked any preceding “flash informativo” but did involve the gruff repetition of “Viva Honduras” and a claim that he did not know why Zelaya was in the country. Having finally determined that Zelaya is here, Micheletti’s next step may be to figure out why he is here, so that citizens prohibited from leaving their residences will not have to depend on media he is trying to ban for the truth.
First published in Narco News, 22 September 2009