Communication lies at the core of the increasing social and political “protagonism” (leading role) of Latin America’s Indigenous People. This is one of the conclusions of a research project on “Indigenous communication as a driving force for social change.”

Results of the research were presented at the XI Congress of ALAIC (the Latin American Association of Communication Researchers), which took place here in May.
The report, prepared by Jorge Agurto and Jahvé Mescco, of the news agency Servindi, points to communication as one of the sources and nutrients of this empowering process and presents several experiences of indigenous communication in South America, including the Bolivian Intercultural Communication System; Azkintuwe of Chile and The Communication Network of the Association of the Indigenous Town Council of Northern Cauca in Colombia.

These initiatives and others confirm that they contribute to making visible the demands of indigenous peoples as well as to strengthening the organizations themselves. Communication provides them with a platform from which to advocate, alone or with others in society, for better and more inclusive public policies which, in turn, result in the creation of conditions where their vulnerability and marginalization diminishes.

The initiatives also enable indigenous communicators to provide the communities they serve with access to crucial information in terms of making decisions regarding their economic, social and cultural welfare. Indigenous communications are, therefore, a vital part of Indigenous peoples becoming actively involved in their own development processes.

The research also highlights that the impact of indigenous communications is linked directly to a change in power relations with the mass media and whether they are willing to engage with and include indigenous peoples and communicators.

The research highlights Article 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that Indigenous Peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages and to have access to all forms of non Indigenous media without discrimination (Art 16 No 1).

It calls on all States to take effective measures to ensure that state-owned media duly reflects indigenous cultural diversity. Furthermore, the Declaration calls on states, without prejudice, to ensure full freedom of expression and to encourage privately owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity (Art 16. No 2)

WACC believes that communication rights are a key element in overcoming the historical invisibility of poor, marginalized and excluded people in the public sphere. Based on this conviction and for a number of years, under its Communication Rights program, WACC has supported communication initiatives by and for indigenous peoples across the world, from Mexico to Bangladesh and India, from Argentina to Bolivia and Peru.