In Latin America, press freedom faces many challenges. In many countries, journalists and communicators face censorship, media blackouts, and verbal attacks from people in power. Many also risk their lives reporting on their communities. In some countries, they face criminal charges and, in many cases, experience job insecurity. The concentration of media in large corporations linked to the political and business class is also a challenge.
Independent media strive to overcome the different forms of silencing with innovative ideas. The Latin American community of Global Voices researched five alternative media informing people in creative ways.
- Written by Belén Febres-Cordero
Wambra, Medio Digital Comunitario (Digital Community Media) is a non-profit organization dedicated to freedom of expression of groups historically excluded from the media in Ecuador. So, since its creation in January 2010, Wambra has told stories that are missing in the traditional media because “they bother, upset, disrupt and mobilize.”
Wambra has gone through different changes. It started out as an online radio station with programs co-produced by community groups and organizations. In 2016, it established itself as a digital medium that includes audiovisual formats, journalistic specials, podcasts, live broadcasts, and social media content. All of this journalism involves the participation of organizations and communities such as feminist groups, LGBTIQ+, youth, environmentalists, human rights organizations, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant peoples, among others.
What distinguishes Wambra is the great network of alliances that it has forged with other alternative media in the country and the region, and how it works with a great diversity of communities simultaneously. It is a medium that not only generates journalistic content, but also accompanies the social and political processes of the social organizations, groups, and communities with which it works.
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2. El Bus TV
- Written by Gabriela Mesones Rojo
El Bus TV was founded during the 2017 protests in Venezuela, which were heavily repressed, with censorship, media blackouts, and persecution of journalists and activists. In this context, a group of journalists decided to report from inside buses on what was happening on the streets in Caracas. They soon created a methodology that would allow them to bring the news directly to the people: they used a TV frame made of cardboard to separate them from the audience, created a short script with the news of the day, and mobilized in groups of three (newscaster, photographer, and producer). This allowed them to create a simulation of a television newscast.
El Bus TV quickly became a hyperlocal and community solution to stimulate access to information in Venezuela and spread to 15 states in the country. In 2018, El Bus TV was chosen among the 10 most innovative journalistic works and projects on the continent in the Gabo Awards of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism.
During the coronavirus pandemic, a new methodology emerged in Venezuela: the flipchart — paper sheets with the most important news of the day displayed on the busiest corners of different towns and cities. Here you can read more about this community journalism initiative.
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3. La Silla Vacía
- Written by Kelly Chaib De Mares
La Silla Vacía is one of the pioneering digital platforms for independent journalism in Colombia. It was founded in 2009 with the aim to present how power is exercised, while offering a discussion platform in which users can contribute to the political debate. Without a doubt, this medium has opened the door to many of the country's alternative initiatives.
In the collective imagination, the expression Silla vacía (“Empty Chair”) dates back to the failed peace process between the government and the FARC guerrilla group, when the FARC's top leader refused to attend a 1999 event, leaving empty a white plastic chair that was assigned to him. However, the expression actually refers to the chair left empty by then-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez when he didn't attend the meeting with the Indigenous communities of Cauca who had marched along the Pan-American highway.
The violence and the polarization in society in Colombia have increasingly restricted access to information in traditional media and the internet is flooded with false publications. In this context, La Silla Vacía has managed to stand out and remain a reliable platform that presents verified facts, and is also one of the first fact-checkers on social networks.
@lasillavacia #Otoniel #ClandelGolfo #ParoArmado #Antioquia #Atlántico #aprendeentiktok #tiktokinforma #noticiastiktok ♬ original sound – La Silla Vacía
- Witten by Jacobo Nájera
Mexico — where eleven journalists have been murdered so far in 2022 — is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalism. In this context, in 2019 the Perimetral journalistic communication medium was founded in Jalisco under the slogan “#PeriodismoParaUsarse” (“UsefulJournalism”) referring to its reports that are socially useful. Jalisco is a state in western Mexico known for its mariachis and tequila, but it also, unfortunately, has the highest rate of disappearances in the country.
Perimetral is a journalistic medium committed to incorporating small audio clips that can be easily shared. In addition to its sound approach, the texts of its articles have a lot of space between paragraphs to facilitate reading.
Perimetral offers various sections with unconventional data, chronicles and profiles, and chronicles and soundscapes on marginalized populations such as women, the LGBTQ+ community, and Indigenous peoples.
Si para buscar no se toman en cuenta datos de perfil, para explicar su #Desaparición menos. @FiscaliaJal no puede explicar por qué desaparecen las #mujeres.
Por: @Sustranya #PeriodismoParaUsarse https://t.co/8VYLrWI9b2
— Perimetral (@perimetralp) May 6, 2022
If profile data is not taken into account to search for the women, it is even harder to explain their #Disappearance. @FiscaliaJal [Jalisco's Public Prosecutor Office] cannot explain why #women disappear.
5. Cuestión Pública
- Written by Lully Posada
The independent investigative journalism medium Cuestión Pública (“Public Question”) was founded in Colombia on March 4, 2018, and exposes cases of abuse of power. It stands out for its defense of democracy and social justice, but above all for its independence.
It focuses on issues of “corruption of public interest such as health, work, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, rural conflicts over land tenure, political alliances that benefit private interests, and everything related to the Colombian post-conflict.”
Despite being a recent alternative media, it has won two Simón Bolívar journalism awards. The first award was in the press news category for its revelations of corruption of Colombian politicians in the Odebrecht case, and the second award was in the news category for revealing information about the 2019 bombing by the State against FARC dissidents in which eight children died. Cuestión Pública also had a critical, determined, investigative, and very close participation with the communities in the social outbreak of 2021. It is supported mainly by subscriptions, donations, and educational agreements with partner organizations.
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