As the first regional “Communication and Latin American Integration From and For the South” conference kicked off in Quito, Ecuador, celebrating the 10 anniversary of teleSUR, an important Latin American media figure highlighted the importance of the regional media network.
Francisco Sierra, the director of Ciespal, an institution founded in 1959 to bolster journalism in the region and location for the conference, also reviewed the role that his institution has played in promoting media studies for Latin America.
“Originally, it was founded as an amplified U.N. system derived from its agencies, such as (ECLAC) … by this time, there were not many journalism schools in the region … so Ciespal was created with backing of UNESCO precisely to fulfill that mission through an international organization,” explained Sierra.Important scholars and leading experts in media reform throughout Latin America worked at the international institution, developing their theories and investigations. Such is the case of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Martin Barbero and Luis Ramiro Beltran, who lead an academic trend calling for media regulation during the 1980s.
“(They developed) for example the tradition of communication for development in Latin America, (which studied) how community radio in rural areas and communication campaigns could help the development of small communities,” underscored Sierra.
As well as promoting media studies to address the needs of underdeveloped nations, the institution's work soon focused on the North-South informational divide. It also sought to provide training for journalists in order to prioritize the region’s most pressing issues within the media's agenda.Ciespal has also decisively backed community projects and social movements, which Sierra believes are key to understanding the Latin American media landscape.
“Popular and community communication has an important reach, a diversity, a richness – in countries such as Brazil, Colombia or Mexico – that does not exist in any other region in the world,” Sierra explained.The MacBride Report, published by UNESCO in 1980, showed the importance of these types of media outlets and urged for the development of new media that would portray the reality of underdeveloped countries from their own perspective, breaking the exclusive dependence of global audiences on mainstream news agencies and corporate media.
“Sadly, shortly after, the neoliberal and conservative political trends became predominant … which impeded putting in practice many of the resolutions outlined by the report,” added Sierra.
As Sierra explained, teleSUR has embodied the ideal of a media outlet that would represent the region in its own words.
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“This is especially important in our very unequal societies. Some of them have been the most unequal societies in the world, such as Brazil,” he added.As Sierra added, the existence of a project such as teleSUR is valued by journalists across the region, due to the increasing need to portray Latin America using its own voice.