Communication Is a Human Right
"When the media are quiet, the walls talk," says Pedro Sanchez, leader of the ALER movement, built on the idea of "communication for the good life" in Latin America.
For many years Pedro Sanchez (pictured) has been a voice to promote communication both in mainstream media, social and citizen media as a human right. Sanchez is educated as a psychologist but has spent his life in media. Originally from Peru, he worked with three theology students in the early 1970’s to produce a key program for the Dominican Catholic radio in Lima, Peru.
“The program challenged people to think differently, and started to focus on serving the poor. Together with various local leaders, union leaders, we wanted to serve the poor neighborhoods, raising issues of education, health, sanitation, water, local public transportation and so on. Lots of people came to our station to be interviewed and the radio gained a lot of listeners as we combined (the Christian) gospel and reflections with news and social issues,” says Sanchez.
At the time Peru was under military dictatorship, and the program attracted a lot of attention from the secret police a few blocks away.
“The station manager (also a priest) complained about all the people from outside with dirty feet adding stains to the carpet,” Sanchez says with a smile.
Even the Cardinal of the time complained about the program named “The Day of the People” because it was broadcasted on Sunday – which is the day of the Lord, the Cardinal maintained. The program was eventually closed by the government, and the journalists were threatened with jail time.
“In the 70’s with military coups and dictatorship, there was no real agricultural reforms. This context gave birth to liberation theology in a situation where many churches became allies of the government. It was in effect a religion condemning you to passivity, with a promise of reward in heaven,” says Sanchez.
Remembering Bishop Romero
Pedro Sanchez addressed a group of 25 journalists and Christian media communicators in Quito, Ecuador, sponsored by The Media Project. He reminded the audience gathered on March 24 that very day 34 years earlier in El Salvador, the Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was shot in the heart and killed instantly.
“Archbishop Romero had a lot of influence in his fight for justice and the poor. He practiced what he preached, and he also had a radio station to communicate his messages. Why should a bishop have a radio station, one may ask? He was talking about social progress, sharing both the gospel as well as everyday news, and in turn causing both enormous personal interest as well as conflict. The radio has intimacy and is a very powerful tool, impacting people in a very profound way. Also today, Christians working in mass media need to realize the consequences may be dramatic,” says Sanchez.
Today Pedro Sanchez devotes his time to the ALER movement, fighting for a paradigm shift in modern media. One source of inspiration for him is the “Marches for dignity” in Spain and other cities, and the many new social news sites around the world. With about two million marching in Spain against violence, Sanchez believes in a change of the power-structures in media.