Community radio legislation in Central America is very limited. Throughout the region, both television and radio frequencies are monopolized by the commercial media, and the States in the region see communication not as a human right but as a commercial good, despite resolutions by UNESCO and the United Nations and the Organization of American States Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression.
Many Indigenous community radio stations throughout Central America already function as members of networks, which has benefited their communities’efforts. In Guatemala, community radio stations have been working for over 16 years to pass a law that would give them a legal means of accessing radio frequencies, despite the fact that Guatemala’s constitution and Peace Accords require democratic access to radio frequencies. As they wait, Guatemala’s Indigenous community radio stations operate under the threat of raids, attacks, and closures by the police.
“Without freedom of expression, no other rights can be guaranteed. Indigenous Peoples demand radio frequencies to have their voices heard and to strengthen our languages, self-governance, information, and education. The Conference will serve to analyze these issues and collaborate to demand that the States in the region provide equal access to media, which is a human right, not a right of businesses,” said Cesar Gomez, Cultural Survival.
“This Conference provides motivation to share experiences and find strategies that make the right to freedom of expression more viable. Putting our efforts together at the international level reverberates locally. It opens doors to women’s participation, both young and old,” said Rosy González, Indigenous Rights Radio Producer.
The First Central American Indigenous Community Radio Conference will take place January 16-18, 2016 in the Comarca Guna Yala in Panama with the participation of over 40 Indigenous leaders from the Kuna territory, Indigenous women and active members of community radios from throughout Central America. Half of the participants are women who demonstrate a strong commitment to the democratization of media for Indigenous Peoples and women, two sectors who have historically not been given sufficient voice in public media.
“The Conference will be a space for those of us who continue to work towards democratization of communication in the region to get to know each other better and to recognize the work that each is doing. It is a space to reflect on and share experiences and most importantly to continue weaving dreams and actions for an inclusive, just and democratic Central America. We come from every country in the region with the will to work, synergize, and most importantly spread the word on our fight against commercial media oligopolies,” said Oscar Pérez, Director of Fundación Comunicándonos.
The participants will develop a follow-up plan and draft an Outcome Document to record shared principles, conclusions, and follow-up.