Popular Radio in Haiti, Security Concerns Overstated
Beverly Bell, associate fellow at the Institiute for Policy Studies and Program Coordinator for Other Worlds, reports on Truthout about grassroots and popular radio in Haiti. Bell speaks with Sony Esteus, director of the Society for Social Mobilization and Communication:
I ask Sony to tell me about the importance of community radio in Haiti, the first priorities for rebuilding it, and the role it can play in reconstructing a just Haiti. First, he clarifies my terminology. SAKS works with community radio, but views itself as part of the network of popular radio, which he defines as radio in the struggle to transform society.
"First, we need to reestablish our own office and see how we can help community and popular radios reestablish themselves. We have to get new materials for ourselves and other radio stations and networks.
"And then, little by little, we need to resume producing alternative information to give the communities, to help them understand what's going on in the country. Now they're mainly just hearing the elite and political leaders who are on the radio all day. But from the progressive sector, we have our own analysis of this political moment.
"Even in the areas that weren't affected, community and popular radio is playing a big role in isolated areas that have no information, or only information from the same political class and bourgeois civil society. Alternative information is being emitted especially from youth these days. Many of them can't go to school [since their schools were destroyed] and so they're going out to the countryside, participating in community radio and doing consciousness-raising. We're also addressing issues that [mainstream] radio isn't dealing with: environmental protection, human rights, women's rights, children's rights.
"For us, community and popular radio isn't an end in itself. It's part of a global plan of social change, of transformation of the society. We're going to continue to do popular education to change the mentality and behavior of people, as well as to denounce what's being done against the people today. As we move forward, we want to help people understand how to organize themselves and also how to fight the projects now underway, which are going to reinforce their poverty."
Sony adds that:
We see the U.S. government taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis to send in 20,000 soldiers, reinforce our dependence, and pursue its own policies.
Security Remains Stable: In spite of media reports in the weeks after the earthquake, security on the streets of PaP since the earthquake, and continuing today, is essentially the same as it was prior to the earthquake. The sense from informal discussions with people working in the streets in and around PaP, was there was no greater cause for concern regarding personal safety or security in and around PaP than prior to the earthquake. Any reports to the contrary are either exaggerated or simply untrue.