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Chile Holds Historic Presidential Debates

June 28, 2013

by Joseph Hinchliffe

Twenty-three years after the fall of Augusto Pinochet, on the surface at least, Chile’s democratic institutions appear strong. However, less than five months out from presidential elections, many Chileans feel more disillusioned with the political process now than at any point since the return to democracy.

In the lead up to the November 17 vote, the country will hold historic primary elections on Sunday. Accompanying them, over the last two weeks, were televised debates—the first to include candidates from the two major political coalitions.

Both the primaries and debates are being touted as a marked change from the vieja politica—“old school” politics which, for 23 years, has seen remarkably little policy difference between politicians who held positions under the dictatorship and those who took up arms against it, or in some cases were victims of its repression.

For those within the established political system and mainstream media, the changes herald a new era of inclusive politics and represent a response to the demands for profound change from social movements sweeping the country.

La Tercera—one of the country’s two largest newspapers—published an opinion piece on June 21 titled, “Primaries, an Important Political Step for Chile.”

Written by Juan Emilio Cheyre—commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army from 2002 to 2006, academic and member of Servicio Electoral (Electoral Service—Servel) board of directors—the article concluded:

“The primaries are important in and of themselves. However, we [Sevel] believe that, in addition, they represent a great step forward in areas as relevant as: trust, public confidence, transparency, depoliticization, autonomy and participation[…] All of these are factors have a direct impact on strengthening our democracy, a task to which, as a country, we have been called upon to undertake.”

But to read the polls, the nation’s political class has never been more distant from the general public since Chile famously voted “No” to military rule in 1989.

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Tags: Chile, Elections, Media

Venezuela: ¿Ciudadanos con nuevos roles?

May 31, 2013

by Paula Ramón

La Televisión del Sur, o Telesur, nació en Venezuela como una utopía: un proyecto comunicacional que pudiera informar a América Latina desde sus entrañas, y disputar la sintonía a colosos como CNN o la BBC, en sus versiones hispanas. Sin pautas publicitarias, la apuesta del entonces presidente Hugo Chávez, sólo fue posible gracias al financiamiento petrolero. Con los años, el sueño tocó el techo de la realidad, y el canal se abrió como una vitrina política de la revolución. En una entrevista, su más alto directivo, Andrés Izarra, explicaría que "en Venezuela no estamos en situaciones normales, estamos en una guerra, por lo tanto los medios no podemos responder con los roles tradicionales.” 

Y Venezuela no estaba en una situación normal. A finales de los años 90, las escuelas de periodismo del país enseñaban un hecho innegable: al tiempo que los actores políticos disminuían su efecto y presencia, los medios de comunicación entraban en acción para sustituirlos. En este escenario, nuevas generaciones de periodistas se fueron tallando. En breve, los medios y sus trabajadores comenzaron a robar protagonismo de las noticias.

Con ese contexto, no es de extrañar que, hace dos semanas, luego de que dirigentes de la oposición divulgaron un audio en el cual, Mario Silva, una de las voces más radicales del chavismo mediático, desentrañaba intrigas palaciegas—con todos los ingredientes para un best seller: corrupción, levantamientos militares y traiciones—el escándalo inicial de las denuncias fuese suplantado, en horas, por la expectativa que generó la caída del vocero y el destino de su programa de televisión.  

La veracidad de la grabación aún no ha sido confirmada por expertos. Silva aseguró que se trataba de un montaje, y reclamó que altos funcionarios del chavismo denunciados en ella, como el presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, Diosdado Cabello, dieran una "aprobación tácita" a la misma. La Fiscalía General de la República abrió una investigación, no sobre el contenido, pero sí sobre su autenticidad. Hasta la fecha, la única consecuencia real de la revelación fue en las ondas:  tras el escándalo, la directiva del canal estatal decidió poner fin a La Hojilla, el programa favorito del fallecido presidente Hugo Chávez, donde cada noche, Silva acuchillaba verbalmente a los adversarios del gobierno, adecuándose al rol extraordinario de los comunicadores, en estos tiempos extraordinarios que vive Venezuela.

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Tags: Venezuela, Media, Globovision, La Hojilla

La hazaña Langlois, una lección para los corresponsales de guerra

May 3, 2012

by Jenny Manrique

Sería realmente alentador, además de novedoso, que llegara una celebración del Día Mundial de la Libertad de Prensa sin malas noticias para el gremio. Pues este 3 de mayo no logró ser la excepción, ya que además de repasar las cifras que no ceden en lo que a violaciones a la libertad de expresión se refiere (Reporteros sin Fronteras (RSF) dijo que ya van 21 comunicadores asesinados en 2012 y que las FARC y las Águilas Negras siguen siendo predadores de la libertad de prensa en Colombia), desde hace seis días es incierta la suerte del reportero francés Romeo Langlois, freelance para la cadena France 24 y el diario Le Figaro en el país.

La historia es así: Langlois se fue con el Ejército colombiano a cubrir una operación antinarcóticos en Unión Peneya, un sector del municipio Montañitas de Caquetá, al sur del país. Un municipio, dicho sea de paso, que hizo parte de la zona de distensión que en el gobierno de Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) se despejó para que las FARC tuvieran diálogos con el gobierno y que en últimas terminó siendo un fortín para que la guerrilla se vigorizara y la anhelada paz se diluyera así como la confianza en la salida negociada al conflicto que, lamentablemente, ha sido difícil de recuperar pese a los connotados esfuerzos de la sociedad civil. Hoy día Unión Peneya es uno de esos rincones del país donde la presencia del Estado parece un chiste bogotano, lo que facilita que la guerrilla maneje todo el ciclo de producción de la cocaína a través de milicias armadas.

El grupo de soldados con el que iba Langlois cayó en una emboscada de la guerrilla de las FARC que al final dejó cuatro muertos, pese a que los reportes irresponsables iniciales, compartidos por un general del Ejército a través de Twitter, hablaban de 15, mientras algunos medios, quien sabe basados en qué fuente hablaban de hasta 20 fallecidos. (Entre otras cosas, flaco favor le hace a la libertad de prensa dar partes oficiales apresurados en zona de guerra.) Los heridos confirmados fueron siete, mientras la suerte del reportero todavía sigue siendo materia de confusión: el gobierno colombiano dice que cesará acciones militares en la zona en cuestión y emprenderá un rescate si el gobierno francés lo autoriza; el secretariado de la guerrilla no confirma ni niega la versión de una supuesta vocera del frente XV de las FARC que se atribuyó el plagio; el gobierno francés está seguro de que es un secuestro; el gobierno brasileño ofrece mediación; la Organización de Estados Americanos, la Organización de las Naciones Unidas, y la Unión Europea condenan el hecho e instan a las FARC a liberarlo.

Mientras todos sus colegas nos unimos al clamor por su libertad, el caso fue el punto de partida para reflexionar sobre el ejercicio que realizamos los reporteros en zona de guerra. Sobre todo en un país como Colombia donde el conflicto hace rato que se cubre desde los escritorios y solo algunos valientes van al lugar de los hechos, generalmente viajando como es el caso de Langlois, con alguna unidad militar. Es el término llamado embedded journalism acuñado desde que los periodistas norteamericanos se montaron en los convoys militares que llegaban a la Guerra de Iraq en 2003. Es a veces la única opción para llegar a ciertos “teatros de operaciones” a los que los medios no se le miden a enviar periodistas por su cuenta, por miedos legítimos, restricciones financieras, desinterés, o inexperiencia.

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Tags: Colombia, FARC, Media, Press Freedom

After Correa’s Pardon, Ecuador Should Forgive but Must Not Forget

February 29, 2012

by Lindsay Green-Barber

Ecuador’s Corte Constitucional (Constitutional Court) has delivered numerous controversial verdicts in the past six months with regard to freedom of the press and freedom of expression. But in a strange twist of events, on Monday President Rafael Correa pardoned the convicted defendants of two cases in which he was the plaintiff.  It is a welcome change, but it is one nonetheless that is too little, too late. In fact, it presents a danger that the pressure from the international human rights community will lessen in Ecuador at this very crucial moment in which the proposed Ley de Comunicación (Communication Law) is being debated.

In late 2011, Ecuador's highest court ruled on three landmark cases with regard to freedom of expression. First, the court found the opinion editor and two directors the El Universo newspaper guilty of libel, sentencing them to three years in jail and $40 million in damages.  The court also found the authors of the book El Gran Hermano, which was critical of Correa, guilty of libel and ordered each to pay a $1 million fine.  Finally, Indigenous activist Monica Chuji was found guilty of spreading libel about Minister Vinicio Alvarado in an interview published in the newspaper El Comercio; Chuji was sentenced to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine; Chuji’s appeal is still being considered.

After much international pressure from human rights organizations, such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), President Correa pardoned the convicted defendants in the El Universo and El Gran Hermano cases, effectively archiving the cases and dismissing the penalties.  However, because the court already delivered their rulings for these aforementioned two cases, those decisions stand as precedent within the judicial system.  Similarly, in his pardon Correa declared that if anyone was to publish similarly libelous material, he would not hesitate to bring suit again.

The strategic timing of these pardons reveals Correa’s true intent. First, the pardon aims to get the international spotlight off the Ecuadorian media and the debate surrounding the proposed Ley de Comunicación. A special commission of legislators presented the newly drafted communication law earlier this month; while it contains some important changes from the draft previously presented by President Correa in July 2009, it still remains ambiguous in key areas—leaving space for abuse by the executive and judicial branches. 

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Tags: Ecuador, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Rafael Correa, Media, justice

AQ Video: Sesame Workshop in Nahuatl (Part II)

February 14, 2012

by AQ Inclusion

"Plaza Sésamo" reaches out to traditionally marginalized Nahuatl communities by broadcasting a full episode in the Nahuatl language. Here is a clip, used with permission from Sesame Workshop.

Tags: Social inclusion, Media, Sesame Workshop, Nahuatl

Social Inclusion Case Study: Sesame Workshop

December 6, 2011

by AQ Inclusion

Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind "Sesame Street," Plaza Sésamo,  and so much more, was founded over 40 years ago as Children’s Television Workshop with the goal of helping prepare children from low-income families for school. As UNESCO’s 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report highlights, education “enables people to make choices in areas that matter.” It adds that those who lack “literacy and numeracy skills face a heightened risk of poverty, insecure employment, and ill health.” Social inclusion, therefore, is a topic that has always been at the heart of Sesame Workshop.

With its goal of closing the academic gap, the organization became inherently focused on promoting social inclusion. Since then, the Workshop has expanded its reach to over 150 countries all over the globe, addressing various issues from health and well-being, to mutual respect and understanding, and of course, early literacy and numeracy and school preparedness.

Sesame Workshop’s dedication to social inclusion can be summarized in its mission: “Sesame Workshop is committed to the principle that all children deserve a chance to learn and grow; to be prepared for school; to better understand the world and each other; to think, dream and discover; to reach their highest potential.”

Tags: Education, Social inclusion, Media, Children

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

May 6, 2010

by AS-COA Online

From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Mexico, Germany Host Climate Talks

Germany and Mexico jointly hosted this week informal climate talks aimed at deciding what steps should be taken in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in December. The Petersberg Climate Dialogue held near Bonn, Germany, brought together representatives from 45 countries to discuss topics such as the carbon market, reducing emissions from deforestation, and technology. While the talks—initiated by Mexican President Felipe Calderón and German Chancellor Angela Merkel—did not produce any climate change agreements, they “built up trust” and helped to “bring movement to the climate talks,” Mexico’s Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada told Bloomberg. View a video of President Calderón speaking at the Petersberg Dialogue.

LatAm Governments Join Chorus against Arizona Law

The Latin Americanist blog takes a look at rising criticism from governments across the Americas against the Arizona immigration law. Mexico voiced its opposition to the law, and Colombia, Brazil, the OAS, and UNASUR have rejected the law as well. During this week’s summit in Argentina, UNASUR leaders issued a declaration rejecting the law for its “criminalizing of immigrants.”

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Tags: Chile, Cuba, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Arizona, Argentina, Haiti, Media, UNASUR, Immigration Law

Conflicts of interest plague Chilean Government

April 9, 2010

by AQ Online

President Sebastián Piñera’s recent appointment of Chilean scholar Leonidas Montes as the chairman on Televisión Nacional (the national TV network) generated strong criticism due to a possible conflict of interests. President Piñera is the owner of Chilevisión (Chile’s second-largest TV network) and has been reluctant to sell despite complaints coming from the opposition.

Several opposition congressmen, headed by  Ramón Farías from Partido por la Democracia,  argue that the president should comply with Chile’s law 22.285 of probity and transparency, which states that “every public officer must make a declaration of interests including all companies they participate in.” Among other actions, they have asked the general comptroller to review the case and are preparing either an acusación constitucional (an attribution of congress to investigate and remove government officials) or an investigative commission. The opposition also claims that the nomination of the National Television Council will raise these same issues.

The nomination was made public during President Piñera’s is first international trip. From Argentina the president responded "only ghosts and saints lack conflicts of interest.”  Government’s  spokeswoman Ena Von Baer also declared that the opposition is “following the wrong track and the government hopes that moderate voices prevail over extreme views in the opposition.”

Tags: Chile, Media, Sebastian Piñera, Chilean Congress

Latin American Newspapers Face “Grave Risk”

April 8, 2010

by AQ Online

Renowned Mexican journalist and writer Alma Guillermoprieto warned that the paper editions of Latin American newspapers may soon disappear if they don’t adapt to new multimedia tools.  Guillermoprieto, who is headlining a journalism workshop in Guadalajara, Mexico, this week, predicted that newspapers will continue but “supported by platforms that right now we don't even imagine will exist." The region’s newspapers face a “grave risk” and are in worse shape than North American or European ones partly due to their lack of credibility in the eyes of the general public, according to Guillermoprieto.

Her comments come at a time of increased concern about the future of newspapers. Last year was the industry’s worst, with advertising revenues falling $10 billion, or 27.2 percent, when compared with 2008. Some are now seeing new devices such as the iPad as possible saviors for the newspaper industry. Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Wall Street Journal commented yesterday that more iPad-like devices and less paper edition newspapers might be the way to save the industry.

For more on Alma Guillermoprieto, read her forthcoming article, “Poverty of Opportunity: Crime's Breeding Ground,” in the forthcoming Spring 2010 issue of Americas Quarterly. Guillermoprieto writes about the disconnect between Latin America's economic advances in the past two decades and the prospects and opportunities available for the region's youth. Her article will be published on May.

Tags: Latin American media, Media, Digital Media

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

February 3, 2010

by AS-COA Online

From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Costa Rica Gears up for Presidential Elections

Alex Leff blogs for Americas Quarterly about Costa Rica’s presidential campaigns ahead of the February 7 elections. Campaigns have taken a turn for the quirky, from conservative candidate Otto Guevara’s televised polygraph test to the Social Christian Unity Party’s Luis Fishman’s slogan that “the lesser evil is better.” While Guevara’s support in the polls rose from 13 to 30 percent in September, surveys estimate that President Óscar Arias’ chosen successor, Laura Chinchilla of the National Liberation Party, will win 40 percent of the vote.

Congressional Report Examines U.S. Policy toward Haitian Migrants

In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, a Congressional Research Service Report examines U.S. migrant interdiction and detention policies toward Haitians. Human rights advocates have raised concerns over these policies, saying Haitians receive inferior treatment when compared to other asylum seekers trying to enter the United States.

Read an AS/COA analysis about the U.S. debate over Haitian immigration.

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Tags: Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, energy, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Immigration, Security, Honduras, Argentina, Haiti, Media, Drug Policy

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