By Kristian Andersen
The debate about the impact of new information technologies on journalism is often taken from the vantage point of traditional media. But how do international human rights organisations deal with the use of new media? At the intersection between alternative stories and advocacy, Radio Encuentros might give us an answer.
Today, journalistic story-telling devices and new online tools are a central part of many human rights organisations advocacy work. For IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs), the possibilities offered by new media have helped enhance the impact of their efforts by not only reaching a wide audience but also allowing them to give space to marginalised voices.
The organisation was established in 1968 by a group of anthropologists to denounce the genocide on indigenous peoples in the Amazon. With no help from the Internet at the time, violations of rights were documented and kept as reports and publications for a narrow international audience. With the emergence of especially new social media tools, the organisation has taken steps to modernise its communication model. Last year, it launched Radio Encuentros: an open Spanish-language platform for free use and download of podcasts produced in Latin America on the situation of indigenous peoples in the region. The purpose is to reinforce the organisation’s activist role by providing a space for dissemination of content that has been marginalised from the traditional media picture.
Right to Communication: Who tells the story?
In an environment shaped by a colonial heritage, traditional media in many Latin American countries reproduce a coverage that excludes cultural diversity and marginalised groups. Media generally underrepresent indigenous peoples and organisations, and the right to communication and the construction of new communicational spaces remains vital to strengthening their demands.
Over time, radio has become one of the most accessible platforms for indigenous communities to challenge mainstream media narratives. “Especially indigenous youth and indigenous organisations have created solid radio programmes to tell the story of their struggle, but in the current media environment, indigenous news do not seem to hit the headlines if they do not fit into exotic or folkloric image”, Programme Assistant Pamela Leiva Jacquelín says.
To counter this situation, Radio Encuentros offers a space where indigenous and non-indigenous productions are promoted for both a regional and international audience. The online platform offers 10-15 minutes of audio content in the formats of interviews, soap operas, music, book reviews and spots on a wide variety of topics.
Here you can listen to an interview with indigenous midwifes from Mexico and how their preserve their ancestral knowledge (in Spanish):
Going viral and around the world
Using an online platform allows Radio Encuentros to reach many different audience segments ranging from academics, traditional radio listeners, key decision-makers to non-indigenous activists. Published on Radio Encuentros’ Soundcloud account, followers can share, like, and download the content. In fact, many audios take on a life of their own after being published – often with the consequence of reaching new audiences. “People from all over the world share the audios on social media and helps it become understood as a global issue. Local radios, researchers, academics and general audiences in different countries download content for educational and private use,” Leiva Jacquelín says.
Today, Radio Encuentros has around 3000 monthly listeners on Soundcloud, and in the future they hope to offer audios not only in Spanish but also in indigenous languages. “Audios in the people’s voices and experiences are essential for documenting violations against their rights. Means have changed drastically but the objective remains the same: documenting violations of rights so they can overcome time and stand for recognition of rights”, Leiva Jacquelín concludes.