A communication beyond the vagaries of power

Photo: Courtesy.
By Guillermo Mejía

Society demands communication that is in line with the rights and aspirations of citizens, rather than based on private or group political or commercial interests, that puts in crisis the traditional liberal conception of the role of the collective communication system and opens spaces for participation.

Usually, the media offer - with very rare exceptions- is based on the construction of thematic agendas and actors who are in the orbit of power and, thus, they speak based on those interests, call it of incumbent rulers or politicians and businessmen, that together proclaim speeches far removed from popular interests.

To the degree that, given the absence of critical thinking or from a popular perspective for reasons we all know, Salvadoran society has generated a conjunction of positions around traditional approaches - already hackneyed- on the exercise of power and democracy based on conservative philosophical-political principles.

In fact, a lot has to do with the standardization of information coming from the international market for cultural products - North American and European as a basis- to which are added the spaces of the government and politicians and businessmen who agree with a model of democracy that does not respond to citizen rights and restricts citizen participation.

From popular communication projects, community, alternative and participatory, it would be wrong to assume traditional communication and for the critical perspective to be subordinated in defense of a way of understanding democracy - representative and elitist- to the detriment of a participatory democracy, tan importante como necesaria en la sociedad contemporánea.

Of course, It is different to help in the defense of professional journalistic practice against power, and the different interests of hegemonic groups, that should be a media task, journalists, non-governmental organizations and the general population, although the demand to receive quality information is always maintained and the generation of democratic opinion is allowed.

It must be taken into account that, in the recent past and in the midst of civil war, from various media, many journalists assumed the commitment to defend the right to information in the face of threats from the governments of the day - for example, in that of President Napoleon Duarte (1984-1989). But nevertheless, These spaces for information and opinion were abruptly banned and many communicators were thrown into the streets with the rise of far-right Alfredo Cristiani, of the Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA).

Newcomer media entrepreneurs and politicians made it clear to journalists that things were not going to be the same as with Duarte's Christian democracy, because ARENA had come to the government. Y, well, the civil war continued until peace was signed, in 1992, en unos acuerdos en que en ningún momento se consideró el problema del ejercicio profesional del periodismo y el derecho a la información y la comunicación de los salvadoreños.

It was a time when the United States itself, that gave the rulers a million dollars a day for the counterinsurgency strategy against a guerrilla Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) strengthened, He also did his part to want to pretend that they lived in a democracy and bet on the creation of informative and opinion spaces with the arrival of advisers linked to the CIA. But, at the end, Duarte was discarded - the corruption in his government ended up sinking him- and ARENA became the manager on duty for the gringos.

From that context, journalists and the general population need to, do not fall before the siren songs of rulers of occasion and traditional sectors of power that carry water for their own mills, without responding to the demands of broad sectors of society and that, for intestinal lawsuits, invisibilizan los problemas estructurales que nos aquejan.

How the Brazilian lay theologian Edward Guimarães nurtures us, in the alternative Catholic magazine Meeting Point, on the challenges of popular and community communication today: "The pandemic made visible, impossible to hide under the rug, la gravedad de las contradicciones provocadas y perpetradas por la perversa desigualdad social”.

“Inequality that has been aggravated by a dominant and systemic logic of income concentration, assets and socio-political power in the hands of a few. It is the logic of the hegemonic system in the current stage of development of capitalism that can be characterized as ‘two-sided neoliberal’: a financier, speculatively and perversely unproductive and the other agro-industrial, extractivist and terribly destructive and anti-ecological ", add.

According to the also university educator, it is very sad, but ethically necessary, face the situation we are living. The coronavirus is not the only pandemic among us: “Hay ‘otros virus’ mucho más agresivos y mortales que el COVID-19”.

And details: “A very significant part of the population of poor countries, unfair and unequal has been daily threatened by the pandemic of the virus of social indifference; by the pandemic of the virus of the trivialization of life and the discarding of poor and undesirable people; for the pandemic of the virus of misery and hunger; by the pandemic of the virus of profit and corruption that nullifies the social responsibility of the State and destroys public policies for the defense of life; by the "pandemic of the unemployment virus and the uberization of work; for the pandemic of the virus of violence against human rights ... "

Guimarães reminds us that “there is a close relationship between communication and critical education and self-criticism on which it is necessary to reflect. The best way to ensure good communication is to advocate for quality critical and self-critical public education. When everyone is guaranteed, at the family level, school, religious and social, broad access for all to quality education, autonomy mechanisms are created, empowerment and popular self-regulation ”.

"With critical and self-critical education, eyes open, people get better. They begin to have more self-esteem and to be more demanding on all levels with themselves and with others. They become more sensitive and attentive to the ethical level in the collective defense of their rights and fulfillment of their duties ", the Brazilian lay theologian sentenced.

How good it would be to assume from communication and information - so important in society- the commitment to the rights and aspirations of citizens over the interests and whims of traditional rulers and sectors of power that, Yes indeed, they fear that people will really recognize their role in building a true democracy.