Media en Resistencia: Organizing and Independent Media in Honduras

Media en Resistencia: Organizing and Independent Media in Honduras

 

I can’t help but smile remembering the frank instructions from members of the Honduran resistance upon my arrival in Tegucigalpa: “Stand between police and protesters. Hold your camera. Hope it might slow the rapidly advancing boots or raining blows. If it doesn’t, run like hell.” 

 After a narrow escape, sharing my water bottle with one of the protesters, he teased, “Solidarity here is very practical and urgent.” 

I don’t speak with any particular expertise on the complexities of the Honduran resistance struggle since the military coup of June 28, but I am grateful for the chance to share some ongoing reflections on the power and the limitations of the tools of independent media in this struggle. 

Being perceived as a member of the international press, I was often approached by people who would pull up their sleeve in order to show me bruises or scars caused by police repression, conveying their absolute faith in my ability to document, honor, and carry these stories. But what I saw in actual practice were organizers utilizing cell phone trees in order to communicate information to one another and concerts being performed in the streets to demonstrate that the resistance is unafraid. These and many other examples represent a far more powerful media than any certified document could hope to provoke, considering the lackluster international response to the crisis in Honduras. Media by and for the Honduran resistance creates a critical context for analyzing the six months of active demonstrations and helps create a network to channel anger into action. 

Resistance-media establishes channels for sharing experiences and values, and provides a forum to coordinate movement around an issue. In Honduras, the need for these channels is literal and urgent, and the military dictatorship, understanding the power of this tool, has sought 

to maintain control of a population in revolt by closing Radio Globo and Canal 36, two prominent voices in resistance to the coup. The Frente en Resistencia Del Golpe de Estado (the Front in Resistance to the Coup in Honduras) has responded with creativity and tight organization, using internet streaming, cultural actions, and word of mouth to continue sharing information that is critical to logistical planning and to the safety of protesters. As media makers, we must principally be organizers and recognize that 

the paths we create to share our words and visions are also the infrastructure for the redistribution of the resources we fight for. 

Members of the resistance describe the state’s repressive response to popular demands for constitutional reform by saying, “The masks have come off.” 

The masks have fallen from the faces of the coup supporters, who have claimed to have acted in defense of democracy. This lie is unveiled when discovering the overwhelming police force, intimidation, and assassinations that have confronted the efforts of peaceful protesters who have simply tried to be better represented in the country. 

Before his removal from power, Manuel Zelaya was not the popular hero of the resistance that the mainstream media portrayed, but rather took only a small step to create a process for constitutional reform as demanded by popular pressure. Media made by the resistance and allies maintained a focus on the demands underlying the call for constitutional reform such as land reform and workers’ protections. And 

the resistance took a step towards creating a government that was relevant and responsive to the people’s struggles, as evidenced by the more than 60 percent abstention they achieved in their boycott of the November elections. Media, by providing this critical context, have spurred participation in social organizations such as student groups and unions— thus creating space to recognize the common struggles they share—and a strong identification with the Frente, not as a homogenous group, but as a united front. 

This infrastructure of resistance media is critical for sustaining the fight for structural change and representation that has been made impossible through the traditional electoral process by repressive and fraudulent elections. As media makers working in solidarity, we must continue to fight media sources—backed by the US government and its economic interests—that recognize these illegitimate elections and condone human rights abuses. Speaking from my perspective as part of the independent and international press, I believe that we sometimes wield the tools of the media via a position of privilege so that we can provide safety for those in active resistance. However, we must also continue to fight to change the relationships of power around those tools. For us to recognize the face of the common enemy we fight, we must hear the words and perspectives from the trenches of various struggles. Without media made by all sectors of the struggle, our strategy and understanding of what we are fighting against will be incomplete.