The Second Continental Summit of Indigenous Communication on Abya Yala

The Second Continental Summit of Indigenous Communication on Abya Yala

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August 6, 2013

This October 7th through the 13th, the Second Continental Summit of Indigenous Communication on Abya Yala will be held in Tlahuitoltepec, Mixes, Oaxaca, Mexico.

A follow-up to the first summit in Cauca, Colombia in 2010, the event will continue efforts to create a permanent space for Indigenous media to share experiences, challenges and aspirations in the field of communications. The focus of the summit is to contribute to the strengthening and strategic empowerment of communication processes of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala, and to build a framework for dialogue, exchange, reflections and proposals.

Continuing the work of the first summit, which heavily focused on creating a continental network of Indigenous communications, this summit looks towards:

As the declaration that came out of the first summit states, Indigenous communication is based on life, world views, identity, values, culture, native languages and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples and nationalities. This puts media and communication in the realm of autonomy, self-determination and other internationally-recognized human rights.

Already firmly established in international human rights law, Indigenous Peoples have the right of access to media, as Article 16 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

  1. 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.
  2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity.

However, as exemplified around the world, this basic right is severely violated, with limits being placed on Indigenous autonomy, spiritual well-being, as well as cultural and linguistic diversity.

Although part of the Peace Accords that ended the decades-long civil war in Guatemala, the Indigenous Maya are still criminalized for operating community controlled radio stations. The right to community media in Guatemala is also protected in the new constitution. Yet, the current law in place makes all radio that is not private or government-owned illegal.

Indigenous peoples are also largely underrepresented in media sources. This Infographic from June shows the great amount of missed coverage about struggles of Indigenous Peoples around the world. This is also aggravated by mainstream media rhetoric regarding Indigenous Peoples as subversives, as a threat to the dominant society’s culture, or as backwards and in need of more influence from the dominant culture.

This often means exploitation for Indigenous Peoples as it creates a lack of political participation and knowledge about Indigenous rights; The opportunities to engage in politics are lessened. Being denied their voice, Indigenous Peoples find it all the more difficult to fight their oppression, build networks and coalitions, work with allies, and utilize media to strengthen their cultural identity, constantly being threatened from mainstream society.

Access to media and communication is powerful and must be exercised by Indigenous Peoples to influence society and public policy, as well as for cultural resiliency, autonomy and self-determination. Radio, print media, television, and other media sources all have potential to help shape public opinion. As already proven with a number of local media projects, when Indigenous Peoples acquire Internet skills and can access media, they can apply this knowledge to create their own information and communication systems. Ultimately, Indigenous People can promote success by communicating with other indigenous people around the world about their experiences.

The Summit in Oaxaca looks to strengthen Indigenous Peoples ability to control their own communications, offer counter narratives to those of the dominant society, and to make sure their stories are being covered and shared. It also works to improve Indigenous Peoples access to each other, helping the organizing of solidarity. It is open to participants, observers, special guests, and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous media with an interest in promoting the event.

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