Indigenous broadcasters in Peru: The right to Communication
In a country with more than 50 different ethnic groups, the native peoples have no means of communication of their own and only restricted access to the public and private media.
Rosa Palomino, an Aymara communicator, learnt Spanish the hard way. At 15 years of age, she left her native community of Camacani, in Platería department, Peru, to go to Puno to study. “People would say to me: you, peasant girl, you don’t know anything, you don’t speak Spanish. My mother told me: deal with it. They hit you? Hit them back. They pull your hair? Pull theirs back.” At 64 years of age, Rosa Palomino is now a member of the Board of the Indigenous Communicators Network of Peru (REDCIP). She runs the Wiñay Pankara (Forever Thriving) programme on the daily life, needs and demands of the Aymara population in the Andean region of Peru.
Her case is exceptional, however. In Peru, with more than 50 different ethnic groups, the indigenous peoples do not have their own means of communication and their access to the public and private media is restricted. The communications sector is very heavily concentrated: the Comercio group holds a virtual monopoly and this hinders information diversity as the group controls some 78% of the national press. “The vast majority of communicators have to pay for small marginal slots in the large commercial media out of their own pockets,” explains Jorge Agurto, director of Servindi, a news agency with 10 years’ experience of publishing news about, or of interest to, the communities.
Radio is one of the most accessible platforms for indigenous peoples and, in some countries, this has resulted in an active community radio movement. Legislation in most Latin American countries recognises three methods of radio broadcasting: public, commercial and community. In Peru, however, powerful radio broadcasting companies hold licences for frequencies that they do not even use and which they often sublease or sell to the highest bidder.
Article 16 of the UN Declaration recognises communication as a fundamental human right of indigenous peoples. It calls on the world’s States to endeavour to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to establish their own media and to have access to public and private media in order to protect their cultural diversity.
“There is no political will to facilitate access. Nor are there radio frequencies for this sector, unlike in neighbouring countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador, where 30% of the spectrum has been allocated to these kinds of community media,” notes Agurto. The communities are forced to broadcast via pirate radio stations which the Ministry of Transport ends up confiscating due to alleged “frequency theft”.
Together with Servindi, IWGIA is thus supporting a number of specific communications projects: La Voz Indígena (The Indigenous Voice), which broadcasts in the Shipibo language and has thousands of listeners in the Amazonian region of Ucayali and, in the south, for the Aymara people, theWiñay Pankara (Always Thriving) programme run by Rosa Palomino via Radio Pachamama in Puno.
According to the Human Rights Ombudsman, there are some 200 conflicts over extractive activities in Peru. “In areas where mining projects are giving rise to significant social conflict, the companies are accessing frequencies through private foundations or associations and we are finding, in some places, that as many as four or five broadcasters are speaking in favour of the company,” states Agurto.
“The media are being used to promote stereotypes,” he continues. “The peoples only appear in the media when the topic relates to social conflict, death or folklore. They are given plenty of airspace to talk about food, dance and their festivals but, when it comes to issues such as territorial defence or their own models of development, the media will not allow them to freely express themselves.”
Radio Encuentros, a radio space for indigenous peoples
Many young indigenous people have turned to social media for news about what is going on in their local environment. Radio Encuentros
is an online radio platform, broadcasting in Spanish, which IWGIA set up a year ago to provide copyright-free content and downloadable podcasts produced in Latin America on the situation of the region’s indigenous peoples. The aim is to improve the organisation’s activism, offering a space in which to disseminate content otherwise ignored by the traditional media. Through this platform, indigenous and non-indigenous communicators provide between 10 and 15 minutes of audio that can come in different formats: interviews, reports, soaps, music, book reviews, etc.
Radio Encuentros has around 3,000 monthly listeners accessing it via a free audio distribution platform, SoundCloud, where content can be disseminated, downloaded and shared. Much of this audio content gains a life of its own after publication, thus reaching new audiences. “Local broadcasters, researchers, academics and the public in general in different countries download the content for educational or informational purposes. Issues that are often ignored can in this way be disseminated globally,“ explains Pamela Leiva Jacquelín, Radio Encuentros’ Programme Assistant.
The future aim is to offer content not only in Spanish but also in indigenous languages. “The media may have changed drastically but our aim is the same: to report on indigenous affairs and the peoples’ capacity to create their own processes for self-determination and for building their own development model,” concludes Leiva Jacquelín.
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