ColumnsSponsored By United
Peru: When the media doesn't listen
By Nick Rosen
May 30, 2012
I have been following a lot of coverage of the unrest in Espinar over the last few days. Professional responsibilities aside, many of the images beamed in from that barren corner of Cusco have been really powerful.
One moment in particular, however, has stuck with me. The morning after the state of emergency was enacted, as a small crowd gathered around a news correspondent, a woman, a campesina, made a plea to the camera. In a wailing voice, bordering on tears, she seemed to pour out her heart, talking about how Ollanta Humala had betrayed her and her neighbors, asking for his help to stop the violence in the community.
Whether you believe that she is being used as a pawn in a nefarious political game or that her grievances are legitimate, it was an amazing moment of television. This woman was baring her soul. When she had finished, the local correspondent threw it back to the studio in Lima and asked the anchor, Christian Hudtwalcker, if he had any questions. Hudtwalcker did not. Instead, he lectured the locals gathered there that due to the state of emergency, they did not have the legal right to congregate in the street. By all appearances, he had not even been listening to the woman.
This is not to pick on Hudtwalcker, because his case is really just emblematic of a larger problem. For much of the national press, Peru goes as far north as Ventanilla, as far east as La Molina, and as far south as Asia (from January to April; only to Chorrillos the rest of the year), and most of what happens outside those boundaries goes unnoticed, unheard.
How else can we explain the absolute shock that many prominent journalists expressed at the start of the protests in Espinar? They said that as far as they knew, relations between the community and Xstrata Tintaya were great.
Every major media outlet (and Peru this Week, for that matter) missed the fact that Mayor Oscar Mollohuanca had traveled all the way to Switzerland to ask Xstrata shareholders for changes in the way the company operated. That was just a month ago. The national media missed the years of local complaints that had been documented by the press in Cusco. Those grievances never got heard in Lima.
For too much of the media, the Peru that lies beyond Lima’s outskirts only comes alive during a disaster. While the media could serve as an important conduit between the local populations and the powerful decision-makers in Lima, it usually ignores that responsibility until the situation has exploded into violent conflict.
Even then, for the journalists in Lima, so far removed from the reality of what is happening, there is a reluctance to dig beyond political talking points. How many Lima-based journalists have been spending the week confidently explaining Mollohuanca’s secret motives, when, two weeks ago, they couldn’t have picked him out of a line-up of two people? How many journalists, these last few days, have passionately debated the levels of pollution around Espinar when, two weeks ago, they’d have been hard-pressed to find it on a map?
The press has, rightfully, condemned the violence in Espinar. But it hasn’t shown any more willingness to ask questions or to listen with an open mind.
At the very moment when Hudtwalcker had the chance to ask a protester why she was risking arrest, what she wanted, what she was thinking, he passed on the opportunity.
If we want to understand these conflicts, or better still, help prevent them, we need to stop missing these chances.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.
Total coments: 17
Commented By: harry61
On: May 30, 2012. 3:43 pm
Nick, my compliments: You've got the point!!!! Thank's for this great article!!!
Commented By: eileen carpio
On: May 30, 2012. 4:04 pm
Thank you for this interesting insight into the coverage of the unrest in Espinar. I live in Ireland and just yesterday I listened to a radio station online from Lima. The station had bulletin "reports" about said situation and the radio presenter seemed to be politically biased, simplistic and horribly off hand regarding this matter. I was really shocked that a broadcaster could just blatantly make such lazy prejudiced comments on a National Radio Station. I can see now that this is not a singular case. If you have any suggestions or can recommend good radio stations or radio broadcasts from Peru it would be most appreciated.
Commented By: Leviatán
On: May 30, 2012. 5:27 pm
Really? Is this article serious and for sure? I think that at least they should try and broaden the sight of what this country is and what is the real scope and core of the problems... Visibility of media? Only up to the borders of capital - Lima? It is a very narrow sighted vision (and a very bold one too) to say the least. Let's say that we watch a news feed from Manhattan and criticize the US media for its lack of coverage of Bismarck (North Dakota)... The picture gets worst if such comment is made by a tourist... At least read more papers, watch more channels (7, 4, 5, etc.) and look for their regional and province blocks and news. As to the protests itself, you do not have to be an Einsten to add up and conclude what the core is and who and why are behind the protests... leftists? Environmental and Human Rights NGO´s that oppose to mining? Rings any bells? Also, as to the reporters reactions, who would not be astonished as to hear someone has been "betrayed" by Humala's plan (which one?)... and of course be overwhelmed by the suffering of poor people due to nonsense violence caused by criminals? That is the news that should be aired, not just the narrow sighted vision of "Peru´s media does not listen to provinces", as you are trying to mislead... Shame on you!
Commented By: miguelseclen(at)hotmail.com
On: May 30, 2012. 10:06 pm
I agree 100% with your article. Sometimes we need a different point of view to see what we cannot see in our own country.
Commented By: Lew Fine
On: May 30, 2012. 10:41 pm
Maybe once and for all that this the timr to broaden the scope of concern in Peru that every citizen must realize that we all MUST have a stake in the bettermant of all Peru and that Lima is not the center of the universe. Congratulations Nick for bringing it to every citizens kowledge. It would be a tragedy to return to days of the latter part of the 20th century.
Commented By: rijobel
On: May 30, 2012. 11:58 pm
I agree with you. In my country the indigenous people are living in squalor and the government does not seem to care as long as international companies can get oil and minerals out of the ground. No I do not live in Peru, I live in Canada.
Commented By: Nelly
On: May 31, 2012. 2:22 pm
I agree 100% too. I have worked by Tintaya many years ago und only the Management Staff were privileged, but the small towns around stayed very very poor. The peruvian journalists are blind und only Lima problems are important... It s a pity!!
Commented By: Adrian
On: May 31, 2012. 4:44 pm
As someone who has lived in Lima and now lives in "provincias" (I hate that term..it sums up the problem), I have to agree with the author. The national media IS lazy about what is happening outside of Lima, unless it is a disaster. When vacuous 'celebrity' gossip and morbid reporting of gruesome murders and accidents gets so much airplay on the major channels, then there is little time left for the serious issues or for the 'provinces'. I think that the worst culprits are Channels 11 & 13, though. RPP is pretty good, so the cause is not totally lost. As far as Espinar goes, though, it does sum up the underlying national problem: remote places like Espinar do not get listened to unless they wreak havoc. There is no doubt that the locals are being manipulated by national politicians with an agenda - but if they had a better way of channeling their protests then perhaps this would not happen. It doesn't justify the violence by any means, but it does help to explain it.
Commented By: foncho
On: June 1, 2012. 9:38 am
Not so dear Leviatán You comment basically confirms that the author´s point is not only exclusive of journalism: it is just the expression of the ethnocentric view of Peru that Limenians have.
Commented By: LUIS A
On: June 1, 2012. 2:59 pm
Objectivity is something that Peruvian journalists unknown.
Commented By: Inca
On: June 1, 2012. 5:32 pm
Congrats on this great article and greetings from Cuzco! It has been already translated into Spanish http://www.andeslibres.com/?p=187
Commented By: Hector
On: June 2, 2012. 7:32 pm
It;s very sad what is going on in Peru, here there is a link to know a klittle lit better what is going on in Espinar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix_7RRXuPDA
Commented By: E Beront
On: June 3, 2012. 2:49 am
Mr. Rosen ... why don't you go to Lima's Provinces -- more exactly to Tintaya and similar places -- and report what's happening there yourself? Apparently you have a following and they would probably appreciate whatever news you care to report on besides your critique of Peruvian journalism (right or wrong). Your access and use of Internet as a media system gives you an advantage, it would seem, and an opportunity to create a much-needed journalistic niche.
Commented By: Vlad I.
On: June 3, 2012. 3:13 am
Thank you very much Nick for your approach. With a few exceptional cases, I am very dissapointed on peruvian media. My opinion is that this is not about blindness or missing chances. There is intentionality behind this kind of "performance" and it has been this way for a while. I would like to know who's behind the door.
Commented By: peter Trutmann
On: June 7, 2012. 12:07 pm
Commented By: M4R
On: June 7, 2012. 5:08 pm
Hi Nick, in part inspired with your post, we prepared this video about Espinar, the peruvian government and the media: http://www.antiprensa.pe/dialogando-con-espinar/
Commented By: UncleMeat
On: June 12, 2012. 4:04 pm
After following the media coverage of the last election closely, I learned how incompetent the Peruvian media is. It was a real embarrassment and they lost their credibility with me. That stunt with Bailey was unbelievable. They paid him to come on for an hour, week after week to bash Humala. Humala won anyway and I found it humorous to watch the media eat crow and announce his victory.
Leave a comment. It will be sent to a moderator for approval. We do not publish profanity or offensive remarks. We only publish comments in English.