Building a news-coverage agenda for social movements in Latin America
PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL, 30 January 2005
Tens of representatives from a variety of communications organisations came together on the morning of Saturday 29 January at the World Social Forum to take advantage of the rare ‘face-time’ to share information about the events that they believe are critical for the media to cover in Latin American and the Caribbean in 2005 and to schedule news coverage in collaboration.
The original idea had been to hold the meeting at the end of the Forum (and particularly after the Assembly of Social Movements) explained Osvaldo Leon of Latin American news agency, ALAI so the final panorama was still not 100% clear, however a number of key meetings for movements to be at and for media to cover were thrown onto the table by participants.
The continental campaign against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (ALCA in its Spanish acronym) in April in Havana and November in La Plata, a small resort town an hour’s drive away from Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentinian meeting will be a presidential summit. There is also an “encuentro de los pueblos” (a conference of peoples) in Quebec. A ministerial World Trade Organisation meeting will also be held later this year in Hong Kong.
The Latin American and Caribbean social coalition, Grito de los Excluidos (Cry of the Excluded) will be holding their continental meeting from September 7 to October 12. Representatives highlighted the importance of regional strategising as most of their members had been focusing on working nationally.
Grito does not have presence in Venezuela and in April they shared with the meeting that they will be a workshop there in April during a Venezuelan week known as “semana social” (social week).
Social forums (part of the World Social Forum movment) in the Triple Frontier and in the Caribbean will be held in June. The Caribbean Forum will take place in Martinique.
The Triple Frontier (a zone of convergence of three South American states – Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil) forum was poorly attended last time it was held. Participants explained its importance in the American continent for society as whole. It is an area where multinationals are buying up huge areas of South America’s water-table, where patenting of biodiversity by outsiders is voracious and it has been defined by the US government as a centre of terrorism in South America
Meetings related to communication rights were earmarked by participants. Primarily meetings around the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which culminated in a summit in November and the UNESCO draft convention on the protection of cultural contents and artistic expressions which will be ratified by member states around October. The convention if ratified will be one of the only tools with which nations could be able to fight back against WTO patents. So meeting processes are crucial to communications activists themselves.
The February 2003 march that brought out tens of millions of people to show their rejection of the threatened USA invasion of Iraq was impulsed vigorously by the 2003 World Social Forum. On the day that the BBC announced in their Panorama programme that in a three-month period ending in September 2004, of the 3000 Iraqi civilians killed, two-thirds had been killed by coalition forces, participants at the meeting highlighted the date of the next World March Against War – March 19 2005.
The second phase of the meeting discussed scheduling news coverage by the various participants and their organisations.
The meeting facilitators emphasised that the social news agenda is open and will grow and change throughout the year. They also mentioned the importance of not focusing just on the events outlined above (which is not an exhaustive list) but for the news agencies involved to follow up on them after the Forum ends. The agenda will be passed to multiple organisations, networks and campaigns across Latin America and the Caribbean.
The agenda will be compiled on the website www.movimientos.org and will also be disseminated on the “Pasalavoz” (Spread the Word) mailing list.
PHOTO: Sony Esteus informed the meeting of the political situation in Haiti (APC)