Using the Media for PD

Condorito_Huaso

Because I am a journalist at heart, I am constantly monitoring and analyzing the media’s role and impact upon every day life, specially in the arena of politics and, lately, public diplomacy. For those of you who were interested last class in the Ecuadorian government’s use of the media to perpetuate its vision both at domestic and international levels, here is a good summary of the situation of the press under Rafael Correa’s regime: http://www.cpj.org/reports/2011/09/confrontation-repression-correa-ecuador.php

The section particularly relevant to PD is under the headline “State media as political megaphone.” Is is the story of how this became the most powerful mediatic apparatus de country has ever had, taking over several previously–private multimedia venues, which he promised to sell later on for “public use” but never did, and investing heavily in new “public venues.” None of the media outlets that operate under the government are public. They act, simply, as the State’s megaphone. In fact, his Saturday monologues are intended to impose his authority over citizens, both those who live in Ecuador and those who have migrated. They are a a large and important percentage of his audience, one that guarantees that his “revolution” is well known in countries such as Spain. I have a close friend who is currently living in Barcelona in an exchange program, and who was recently confronted by a Chilean who claimed to know all there was to know about the country’s political and economic reality merely by watching the “Sabatinas.” Indeed, this is the source of most of the arguments that pro-Correa militants use in their daily lives, and are usually charged with aggressive messages, insults, and a condescending attitude towards those who do not share the values poured from the “Sabatinas” and every other government communication outlet . This is the way the “truth” (the official party’s truth) is transmitted, circulated, and forcefully engrained into people’s minds. And it has been very effective.

The government’s thirst for power through the media is far from over. To the contrary, it is ever more greedy. The controversial law of communication will be the umbrella under which every repressive action will be, and already is, justified. And controlling even more venues to serve as the official megaphone is a big part of their strategy. Over the past week, the controversy lay in the fact that the government supposedly sought to buy the rights of a popular Latin American comic, “CONDORITO”, originated in Chile, to adapt to and circulate with the official newspapers. The outcry and opposition was widely felt through social media, and a representative of the government denied knowing about it or giving permission for that to happen. However, the fact that the intention was there is absolutely telling of the shrewdness this government possesses in terms of communication. Indeed, communication might just be its single and most important policy. Its effect on citizens both within and outside the country is tangible. “CONDORITO” is a representation of Latin American idiosyncrasies, but, as cartoons usually are, remains critical of the abuses of power and the consequences for political, social, and economic development in our countries. Attempting to take hold of that for political purposes is a tremendous act of disrespect to Pepo, his creator, on all of us who genuinely enjoy his authentic comics. That authenticity would vanish if used by authoritarian governments.

7 thoughts on “Using the Media for PD”

  1. Andre,

    I’m glad that you posted this link! I wanted to continue this conversation about the use of the media as a propaganda tool in corrupt governments. I’ve been doing some research in another class that involves press freedom and democracy. I thought that I might share a little of what I found in connection to another country in the region that is struggling with a corrupt government using the press as a tool.

    There is a common understanding that corruption within the government can have negative effects on press freedom. The ability of the press to act as a check in the balance of the system is a very strong deterrent to governments around the world. Often referred to as the fourth estate, the media represents an institution whose influence is not officially recognized by society or governments.

    In a scholarly article I found, “Words versus Bullets: Media and Democracy with Coercion” by Vargas, he stresses the role media plays in politics. Using Colombia for an example, he came to the conclusion that dishonest politicians seek to shield themselves from media exposure and therefore remain in power. The study found that votes for questionable politicians happen in places with low independent media, high concentration of paramilitaries and a weak state presence. This isn’t groundbreaking research and really just uses quantitative science to highlight what everybody assumes is the relationship between corrupt governments and media.

    So why does this continue? That is where I think the interesting points lie. I think that you alluded to it in your blog post. People continue to allow governments to use propaganda and the media as a tool for staying in power. If people continue to allow the Ecuadorian government to routinely deny the fourth estate freedom of speech, then the government will continue corrupt practices unbeknownst to the people.

    That is why it is so important to allow the press to report on anything and everything in the United States. Sure, there will be muckraking and scandals, but those are a small price to pay for transparency in our government. The voice of the press is the watchdog for people’s rights. When their voice is muffled, people’s rights are soon trampled.

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