A Distant Dream

A Distant Dream

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April 15, 2012

As an associate member of PEN, I take an avid interest in its efforts toward protecting free expression. Freeing imprisoned writers and preventing the execution of reporters, editors and publishers by totalitarian states is something we journalists and bloggers can easily support.

But as I read the accounts of clampdowns on free speech by states like China, Turkey and Ethiopia, I am reminded of forays into the field of censorship by more benign states like Mexico and the United States. While Mexico lacks official restraints on free speech, it is not uncommon for investigative reporters there to be found murdered; in the US, the totalitarian market keeps free speech at bay by policing the newsroom as well as the streets.

For Indigenous peoples engaged in the resurgent liberation movement around the world, free expression is even less free than for mainstream media. Having had their wealth plundered first by state colonialism, and later by market globalization, their capacity to adequately express themselves in the age of mass communication has been severely hampered.

While nascent Indigenous media has managed to secure a presence online, and to a lesser degree on film, Indigenous broadcast news and radio is nearly non-existent. Despite their struggles making their way into mainstream media on all continents, depictions of what these conflicts are really all about is rarely representative of reality.

Until Indigenous enterprises and philanthropies invest in Indigenous radio, TV and investigative news magazines, Wall Street and Madison Avenue will continue to control the spin on Indigenous resistance. When sites like Intercontinental Cry struggle just to pay for the bandwidth to maintain an online presence, free expression for the world indigenous movement remains a distant dream.

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