Honduras: censored Radio Globo quadruples listeners by going online
The Honduran interim government shut down radio and TV stations that support ousted President Manuel Zelaya, but the internet helps them evade the ban.
It seemed like a typical day at Radio Globo in Tegucigalpa, which supports ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya. The office bustled with reporters and assistants, and broadcasters took listeners' calls on the nation's political crisis. There was just one problem: the station was off the air.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The station and the television channel Cholusat Sur were both shut down by Honduras´ interim government as part of an emergency decree last weekend that put severe limits on civil liberties.
But Radio Globo is soldiering on by transmitting over the internet at a private home, the latest example of Latin American media using new technologies and social media to find a way around govermment censors. In Venezuela, opponents of President Hugo Chávez have used Facebook and Twitter to call for rallies against him – and blogs have created a space for alternative view points that have been stifled in the local press.
Radio Globo director David Romero says the station has over 400,000 listeners online, four times its regular following. "It is frustrating the government," he says, laughing. "They can´t stop us."
Other radio stations have also been picking up their internet coverage and airing it. But loyal listeners are still frustrated. "It´s like I lost a family member," says Maria del Carmen Nunez. Her twin sister, Maria Rosario Nunez, has no internet in her home. She says she listened to Radio Globo programs while doing the dishes or ironing, and relied on it to find out where protesters are meeting. "They want us deaf, mute, and blind."
Press freedom questioned throughout Latin America
The decree that shut down Radio Globo and Cholusat Sur were the latest in a series of strikes on press freedom in Latin America. The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) held an emergency meeting in September over concerns that some governments in the region are increasingly using intimidation, verbal attacks, and legal measures to stifle the media.
"There are some dark clouds in media freedoms," says Christopher Walker at Freedom House in New York. And while outright closures are still an exception to the rule – and Latin America's media remains vibrant when compared to the Middle East or parts of Africa – in some countries the space for open dialogue is shrinking, he says.
The Hondura's closures came on the heels of the three-month anniversary of Zelaya´s ouster. The decree also restricted the right to assemble and gave the government the right to close media outlets that it considers to be disturbing the peace. The emergency decree has been widely condemned within Honduras and the government, led by Roberto Micheletti, has promised to revoke it, though has yet to do so.