Profiles on 10 Successful Experiences of Citizen Communication

By  |  8 / January / 2010

Dear Friends,

The CIP Americas Program is very pleased to present this series of 10 Citizen Action Profiles on Communication Rights. In a world where media monopolies control so much of what we know about the world, these successful experiences from throughout the Americas provide lessons about the importance of building citizen communication from the grassroots.

Many work to give expression to the voices of groups consistently excluded from the mainstream media—women, indigenous peoples, migrants, small farmers. Others focus on overcoming obstacles to access to information and freedom of expression built into national laws and practices, like the "soft censorship" of media financing and the repression of independent media.

And we’re happy to report that, despite the odds, they’re winning battles. The profiles presented in this Special Americas Updater list the challenges, strategies, and achievements of these brave movements and offer tips to similar citizen communication rights projects. Each one offers an inspiring story of how underrepresented groups and issues can break through the barriers and bring their realities and concerns to their own communities and the world.

The Americas Program thanks the World Association for Christian Communication for funding this special project, and the organizations that graciously opened their doors and told their stories to our writers.
We invite our readers to share in some good news for a change. Spread these stories, with the hopes that the efforts can survive and multiply to guarantee the fundamental right to communication to peoples throughout Latin America.

Laura Carlsen


New from the Americas Program

By Laura Carlsen

In the 80s, a group of feminist journalists in Mexico started meeting to discuss one simple question: how do you make the media pay attention to what is happening to the majority of the population?

It seemed a straightforward question, unavoidable both from an information point of view and in terms of responsible media practice. However, it represented then, as it does now, an enormous task. The Mexican Women’s Communication and Information Service (CIMAC) decided to take on this task…

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FUNDAR: New Models to Confront New Challenges to Democracy
By Alicia Athié

In a democracy, the federal public budget should reflect the priorities of the people. In Mexico this is not the case. The civil association "Fundar" has been working for 10 years to make Mexico’s public funding transparent by conducting a detailed analysis of fund distribution, from a funding proposal going from the executive branch to the legislative, until the monies are spent, reported, and audited by the appropriate government body…

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Radio Atipiri
By Laura Carlsen

Communication—different, autonomous, self-directed—is a central theme in El Alto, Bolivia, a community that knows how to fight for its rights. Through its communication projects, the inhabitants of El Alto gather together, discuss futures, contemplate, celebrate, and forge shared identities. For the women, the process gives them life skills, and in many cases, opens them to personal transformation.
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Popular Communication in the MST
By Diego Gonzalez

The Brazilian Landless Movement (MST) has spent years highlighting the need for a serious discussion on ownership of the media and its role. Nationwide, fewer than 10 groups—made up of families or religious groups—control the major communication networks, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and web pages.

The MST produces three principal media outlets: the monthly Jornal Sem Terra, the Revista Sem Terra, and the website These media sources, particularly the magazine Revista Sem Terra, are directed toward the general public. The idea at the heart of the project is to provide more detailed coverage of the rural situation and peasant demands for those in the urban centers. The publications are distributed free from strategic locations, and subscription is encouraged so the enterprise can support itself financially.

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Radio Ñomndaa, The Word of the Water
By Iñigo Prieto Beguiristáin

The explosion of the community radio phenomenon is relatively new to Mexico. There is an ongoing debate as to what a "community radio"’ station is, as opposed to other stations that transmit in small geographical areas. Public interest, commercial, pirate, church, indigenous, and educational radio stations, among others, currently operate and share the airwaves in rural and urban areas throughout Mexico. Most operate without government licensing. The nature of community radio is closely related to the grassroots organization behind the station itself, and to the social links among the listening community.

Radio Ñomndaa is an indigenous community radio station in the Mexican state of Guerrero. It was formed as part of the autonomous organizing of the Nanncue Ñomndaa people in the municipality of Suljaa’, also called Xochistlahuaca. The radio struggles to survive daily, given the underlying situation of media monopolies and the rights to freedom of expression and information in Mexico…

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Argentina’s Community Media Fights for Access and Legal Reform
By Marie Trigona

In response to misinformation and lack of access in the mass media, citizens have created alternative media networks that play a fundamental role in today’s Latin America. Together, these community television stations are transforming the media landscape throughout the Americas. This redefined space for independent media has three vital functions: disseminating alternative information; providing a space for popular voice and especially the voice of groups underrepresented in the media; and building community. In Argentina, citizen media groups simultaneously fight to build self-run, autonomous media and for reforms in media laws that will allow them to operate legally…

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Citizen Groups Organize to End "Soft Censorship," Guarantee Freedom of Expression
By Martha Farmelo

Today Latin American governments rarely exercise direct censorship of the press by banning newspapers or other media outlets, reviewing material, or outright prohibiting publication. But governments across the region are using taxpayer funds and public power to exercise forms of "soft censorship" of the media. Common forms of soft censorship include: withdrawing government advertising funds as punishment for critical content, showering advertising contracts on friendly media, paying journalists directly for favorable coverage, denying broadcast licenses, or blocking access to sources and information for certain media.

Although these practices are not new, for the first time greater numbers of citizens are beginning to denounce the pernicious affects of these much more subtle methods of interfering with press freedom. Cases have been brought to light across the globe—in Latin American, Hong Kong, the Ukraine, and the United States…

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Indigenous Community Radio in Mexico
By Sara McElmurry

Throughout Mexican history, the rich mosaic of indigenous cultures has been the basis of resistance and survival. For many contemporary indigenous communities, geographical isolation and economic and social marginalization are eroding their languages and cultures, marking the final stage in a sequence of events that have made Mexico’s indigenous among the poorest and most excluded populations in the world.

By giving a "voice" to the "voiceless"—in their own language—community radio programs can support development and cultural revitalization efforts in indigenous communities…

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Indigenous Communication in a Global World: Strategies Used by the FIOB in the United States and Mexico
By Bertha Rodríguez Santos

Poverty, authoritarian governments, control over the media, and restrictions of freedom of speech are the main problems affecting the population of Oaxaca—a state predominantly populated by indigenous communities in Southern Mexico.

These are just a few examples of how immigrant migrant members of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organization (FIOB) have constructed their own social media. Migrants from isolated communities in the most remote mountains of Oaxaca have been able to utilize communications and media strategies—from the most simple to the most sophisticated—to bring visibility to their struggle for economic, political, and human rights…

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Mexican Environmental Journalists Improve Coverage
By Talli Nauman

This comprehensive report on environmental reporting in Mexico details the obstacles environmental reporters face in bringing to light the severe environmental crises facing the nation and the valiant efforts of a dedicated group of underpaid and under-recognized reporters. The profile describes not only the problems they confront, but the strategies they have pursued to achieve important victories.

By forming a national network with international ties, the work of Mexico’s beleaguered environmental reporters constitutes a critical link in the chain between information and citizen action to improve conditions in local communities and save a planet that faces growing threats to its survival…

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  1. I am trying to find an active link to one of these articles: Citizen Groups Organize to End “Soft Censorship,” Guarantee Freedom of Expression” All links appear to lead to your news feed. Please let me know if they are archived and what the links might be for this series.

    Kind regards,
    Julie Levy

    Comment by Julie Levy on May 17, 2010 at 11:33 am

  2. Hi Julie,

    Here is the article:

    I typed in soft censorship in our search engine and it appeared.


    Comment by admin on May 19, 2010 at 7:29 am

The comments are closed.