By Guillermo Fernandez Ampie
HAVANA TIMES, July 1 — “Western enthusiasm for democracy stops short when those who oppose its policies are chosen to govern,” aptly pointed out Pakistani writer and journalist Tariq Alí.
Faced with what has happened in Honduras since last Saturday, we could add to Alí’s comment by saying that the West also loses its enthusiasm and fervor for freedom of speech, the rule of law and human rights – in fact they disappear completely – if the person overthrown is a president that has established close relationships with other leaders who are critical of the unjust system of international political-economic dominance.
Likewise, all calls for democracy ring silent when a president’s greatest crime has been to seek the opinion of his constituents.
The first measure taken by those who seized power in Honduras was to order a curfew. In addition, they suspended most television and radio broadcasts – even that of the American network CNN, which could be accused of everything except sympathizing with the popular and progressive sectors of Latin America. For several hours the military held journalists of the Telesur network and those of other news sources.
Demonstrators demanding the return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya, as well as numerous Internet users in that country, recognize that an information vacuum exists in their own nation.
Cartoons and Light Entertainment
The media that have not suspended their transmissions have continually featured cartoons and light entertainment programs, omitting national coverage that other countries have been reporting on extensively with television and radio news flashes.
The news censorship is much greater outside the capital in cities such as Santa Bárbara, or in the Department of Yoro, where democratically elected mayors have been arrested simply for the crime of sympathizing with their president.
Organizations and media sources, usually so sensitive to any violation of civic freedom, are now rather shy about condemning the violations perpetrated by the Honduran coup forces. The renowned Inter-American Press Society (ISP), so attentive to the risks and dangers run by freedom of speech in any corner of the continent, limply expressed “its concern about limitations to freedom of information.”
This “limitation” embraces 95 percent of the media, especially radio stations, which have been “visited” by the army to prevent their reporting on the coup d’état. The Spanish version of the BBC webpage reported on this situation apologetically, referring to it simply as a “media blackout.” There are no repudiations…no unequivocal condemnations.
The same thing happened with other media that “reported” on the violent repression by the military coup forces against citizens demanding the return of Zelaya. News businesses such as Antenna 3 and Spain’s El País titled their coverage as “Police Charge Zelaya Sympathizers,” while the newspaper El Mundo minimized the violation even more by writing “Police and Demonstrators Clash.”
For these media groups, violation of rights by the military is not repression, unless the people “repressed” are the opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez or Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, or the Iranian demonstrators that rejected the results of the latest presidential election.
The Honduran coup d’état (despite US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hesitation to call it that) has also shown that the concern for democracy, freedom of speech and human rights is no more than a mask used by the “voracious elites” – as Zelaya called them – to defend their exclusive interests… interests that were threatened by a simple opinion poll that the constitutionally elected president of Honduras sought to carry out.