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Media situation in Honduras reflects larger battle in region between leftist leaders and oligarchs.
“The big channels had always focused on the lives and opinions of the rich. Channel 8 started looking at the stories and struggles of poor people,” said Cesar Fernandez, a TV producer who worked with the station.
The privately owned Channel 36 also gave favorable coverage to Zelaya, a friend and ally of its owner.
Within hours of the coup, soldiers had swept on Channel 36 installations and cut its signals from the air.
In the days since, the government Channel 8 has radically changed its tune, and has been pumping out messages all day calling on Hondurans to take to the streets in demonstrations in favor of the new regime.
“Honduras needs you participate now!” says one message flashing on the screen. “We have a legitimate government supported by all Hondurans,” says another.
The battle lines over TV coverage here were strikingly similar to the south, in Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, a staunch Zelaya ally.
Chavez also accused commercial TV stations of being pawns of the rich and said they backed an attempted coup against him in 2002.
In 2007, Chavez refused to renew the license of Radio Caracas Television Internacional, the nation’s most popular station, accusing it of irresponsible anti-government coverage.
He has also helped form the cable group Telesur, which provides left-leaning coverage across the region.
On Monday, troops in Honduras stormed into a hotel and detained a Telesur crew as its members were conducting a live broadcast. The crew was released after several hours, although transmission of the channel in Honduras was soon cut off.
Pro-Zelaya supporters say that without any television or radio networks supporting them, it is harder to organize protests.
However, they say the movement is coordinating through word of mouth and text messages and they are planning huge demonstrations on Saturday when Zelaya has promised to return to Honduras.
With the government saying it will arrest Zelaya, many fear violent confrontations.
“The TV stations are sold out to the new regime. But we don’t need them to get out on the streets,” said Rony Orellana, a 24-year-old teacher who was marching for Zelaya alongside beating tropical drums. “They cannot keep fooling the people for ever.”
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