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First Central American Indigenous Radio Conference

Friday 15 January 2016, by SIGNIS

Panama, Brussels, January 15th, 2016 (SIGNIS/AMARC/Cultural Survival). From January 16-18, 2016 Cultural Survival, Fundación Comunicándonos, AMARC (Central American Sub region), Voces Indígenas Panamá, the General Guna Congress, Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural and Indigenous community radio representatives will bring together representatives from Indigenous community radio stations in every country in Central America for the First Central American Indigenous Community Radio Conference: Indigenous Voices Unifying the Region.

The event will spearhead a regional Indigenous community radio network for sharing resources, technologies, good practices, political strategies, and building international political support, all with the goal of supporting Indigenous Peoples’ struggle in defense of their identity, land, and human rights.

"We believe that this conference is an opportunity to come together as Indigenous Peoples and unify efforts to maintain our voice in the promotion of our cultures as a human right," said Anselmo Xunic, Program Manager for Cultural Survival’s Community Media Program. Indigenous Peoples have a unique need for their community media, since it is through the media that they can communicate about issues that affect them, organize themselves, and strengthen their languages and cultures.

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.

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