When Carlos Rodríguez leaves his home in Asunción, Paraguay, he always carries a video camera with him. As a journalist and blogger, he knows that there is news around every corner, waiting to be captured with his camera and then be broadcasted on the screens of thousands of internet users from all over the world, who are compelled to learn about Paraguayan reality.
After a long career in Paraguayan media working in radio, television and print, Rodriguez discovered the wonders how a blog can provide in a country where there is few existing mainstream media outlets that dominate public opinion. Rodríguez shares with us proudly that R.E.S.C.A.T.A.R. [es] was one of the first Paraguayan multimedia blogs to post video footage.
Initially, RESCATAR was going to be financed by an NGO, with the aim to start a big network of local blogs, but when the project was halted, Rodriguez decided to make it his own and go forward with the project with his son’s assistance. During a phone interview, Rodriguez told us about his experience.
Global Voices: Why did you choose R.E.S.C.A.T.A.R. (to rescue in English) as the blog’s name?
Carlos Rodríguez: The acronym stands for: The Rescue of experiences of civil society to learn, spread, and increase results.
Our goal is to rescue civil society’s experiences and generate a debate based on them, because in Paraguay there are important things being done and many valuable experiences of the people, but no one finds out about them because they take place on a community level. Applying these experiences into other areas of the society can help solve the many problems that the country is going through.
GV: What is the difference between posting on a blog and writing on a mainstream media site?
CR: It’s a very life-giving experience. Every journalist dreams about being able to express their own point of view without the commercial harassment of the media. Writing on my blog I don’t have a commercial manager telling me, “be careful with what you are writing.”
Right now I’m writing an article questioning a deputy of the lower house of Congress …I don’t worry if the person I’m questioning is a politician, or even a big company…Here, we write against (President Fernando) Lugo, against the right or the center. One experiments without boundaries of any kind.
Now I get to write from a citizen perspective free from any political or sectarian interests. Just like any citizen who pays their taxes and suffers the local reality. It’s very different than what the mainstream media is doing.
GV: Do you think your blog collaborates with the Paraguayan society?
CR: I think that a blog collaborates. I only have a few readers, but there is a group of people who make the important decisions in Paraguay, and what I write reaches this small group of people who has the power of decision. I feel that my posts have somehow modified conduct.
GV: How do you think it collaborates, any examples?
CR: I wrote very harsh assessments of ABC newspaper (the largest distributed newspaper in the country,) because I ran into a case of distortion of information. ABC published the statements of the Bishop of Concepción (a department of Paraguay), where he allegedly criticized president Lugo for defending kidnappers in Paraguay. I followed that story because I noticed the information was distorted and posted about it on the blog.
A week later, ABC published another interview in which the Bishop questioned the previous publication, denying what had been published. But his questioning was hidden in the third paragraph of the story, so this time, I decided to write an article questioning not the journalist, but the owner of ABC for allowing this type of journalism.
I notice there are certain incoherent behaviors that change when people denounce them in a solid way. My medium is not a powerful medium, but I work with the power of reason. I’m not saying I’m indisputable, but I do make an effort so that what I say is solid.
GV: Would you say R.E.S.C.A.T.A.R. plays the role of a watchdog of Paraguayan press?
CR: We do somehow examine the press, Paraguay doesn’t have a watchdog of the press, this is very important in a country where the media don’t follow a code of ethics. Media request ethics from the rest, but they don’t have one, there is hypocrisy in the media.
GV: Who reads your blog more, Paraguayans or foreigners?
CR: Foreigners, Paraguayan readers are only about 35% of the total. Having fewer Paraguayan readers doesn’t bother me, there are few Paraguayan readers in general, this also happens with newspapers. I have a control system to know how many visitors I have, who is reading the blog, where and which institutions or entities are reading it, sometimes I receive visits from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain for instance, or universities from all over the world.
GV: Do you think citizen journalism blogs have a future in Paraguay?
CR: Yes they do, blogs must emerge and project themselves. Media concentration is in very few hands, a few business men are deciding which messages are sent to the people and they are capable of dominating the collective’s thinking. This concentration must be broken, the community radio stations that are being attacked by politicians today, are fundamental to get another vision of the national reality, and blogs are also a medium to break this concentration.