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.