In the Central American country of Honduras, a political story has been unfolding which deserves more coverage than it has been getting.
Close to 40 people have been killed and more than 2,000 arrested, following the contested re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez to a second term in office.
With 54 percent of the votes counted, the trend was a clear win for left-wing opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla. But then the computer system mysteriously broke down. When it finally came back online a full day later, the vote count had been turned upside down: the right-wing incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernandez, was suddenly ahead.
If not for the rather obedient Honduran media, allegations of electoral fraud would have got more attention. But Honduran mainstream outlets, owned by powerful economic groups, have been echoing the right-wing ruling party’s narrative of “nothing to see here”. They are also accusing left-wing politicians and journalists of trying to steal the election and turn Honduras into another socialist Venezuela.
Alternative narratives are hard to come by, but one radio station has proved an exception to that rule.
Based in the north of Honduras, Radio Progreso is run by the Catholic Order of Jesuits – an organisation that does extensive work with some of Honduras’ most neglected and least heard communities. The independent station reports on human rights violations, police and military abuses and election fraud.
“I will not call him president because he [Hernandez] has seized power and he is illegitimate,” says Father Ismael Moreno, director of Radio Progreso. “But the media keep insisting that there is nothing important going on here in Honduras. Their narrative is deeply ideological and reflects the interests of the winners.”
“When the mainstream media talk about the election, they argue that there was no electoral fraud but a successful campaign by Juan Orlando Hernandez. This narrative conceals the real dynamics of the repression, the constitutional breach and the control of the state by an alliance between the oligarchy, political power and multinationals,” says Moreno.
Four months since the November election, Radio Progreso has not stopped demanding answers, and its persistence has put it in the crosshairs of opponents.
In December, the station’s broadcast antenna in the capital, Tegucigalpa, was knocked down. In the digital space, dangerous and defamatory material online has been circulated about the station and director Moreno, known as Padre Melo.
But this is not the first time Radio Progreso’s work has meant serious challenges, and at times deadly consequences, for its staff.
In 2011, correspondent Nery Jeremias was gunned down; three years later, marketing manager Carlos Mejia was stabbed to death. Then, in 2016, indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres was murdered.
Caceres and director Moreno were close friends and had worked together to set up a network of community radio stations called COPINH.
By offering a perspective Hondurans won’t find in the mainstream media, Radio Progreso is an anomaly. And with three people already having paid with their lives for their work, the station is playing a dangerous game – alternative narratives, alternative journalism in Honduras.
The Listening Post’s Cristina Martinez reports on the kind of journalism that, in Honduras, comes with risks.
Ismael Moreno, director, Radio Progreso
Tirza Ulloa, head of news, TNH8
Andres Molina, media analyst, C-Libre
Thelma Mejia, investigative journalist
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