UNESCO holds World Radio Day annually on February 13, in order to celebrate radio’s role in society, as a means of communication that opens the doors to diversity of opinions and voices, union between different communities and social change. For indigenous peoples, radio is instrumental to raise our voices, highlight our knowledge and put in practice our rights. The radio airwaves can bridge the gap that separates urban nucleuses where political power gathers from our ancestral territories.
Indigenous peoples appropriate the radio to fulfill a complete democratization of expression, strengthen our identities through oral expression and build intercultural citizenship. Indigenous women and youth empower themselves based on their participation and expressiveness on radio. We can demonstrate that a foreign technologic medium can serve our purposes and contribute to the fulfillment of our collective identities and communal lives.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the right to an autonomous communication. The American Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples points out that national governments should implement the measures necessary to guarantee that indigenous peoples be able to access the media.
CHIRAPAQ has accompanied indigenous peoples’ radio experiences in Peru, promoting the assembling of the National Coordination of Indigenous Communication in Peru (CONACIP in spanish). Our radio work started out during the food security initiatives carried out in Ayacucho, where this medium’s goal was to teach about traditional knowledge, good practices in nutrition and indigenous food culture.
Radio and democracy in Peru
The political order in today’s Peru does not guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to communication. Even though the communication media law recognizes community radio – according to CONCORTV – only three stations have managed to register as such. Excessive requirements and administrative obstacles impede community stations’ access to legal recognition. These stations prefer to register as private enterprises to attain clearance to go on air. In this process, the indigenous radios’ system of democratic and collective participation is lost.
This situation aggravates by the domination of the media market by a few groups of power, which impose a centralist, ethnocentric, exclusive and anti-democratic discourse, submitting information and communication rights under political and economic interests.
In local and regional contexts, radio airwaves are controlled by local power groups (private enterprise, political leaders, local governments), usually linked to corruption and persecution towards independent reporters. These conditions are harmful towards indigenous voices, many times relegated outside of public spheres.
Challenges to indigenous radio
CHIRAPAQ has identified a few challenges for indigenous organizations willing to go live on air:
The development of political communication projects based on assessments of the social conditions in which indigenous peoples situate themselves in every territory. These projects should deploy political strategies, but also institutional efforts to attain sustainability, keep their frequencies live and practice communication with autonomy and self-determination.
The creation of indigenous radio formats, generated by research and re-discovery of our peoples’ ancestral knowledge and current social situations in local public spheres, government and sociopolitical systems.
Producing indigenous communication systems, which surpass western influence in radio practice. This goal asks for research on our own cultures and identities, and joined efforts between organizations. We need to form networks of community reporters that generate communication processes from every territory.
Finally, strengthening our impact in bettering the legislation on right to communication. Also, promoting actual implementation of governmental measures towards democratization of media and communication.