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Mon Feb 11, 2013, 05:23 PM


UN Rapporteur: Latin American media hurts freedom of expression and the exercise of citizenship

Frank La Rue's visit to Brazil was largely ignored by most media outlets. Understandable: the journalist born in Guatemala, the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, is a fierce critic of media oligopolies around the world, especially in Latin America.

During his three-days stay, La Rue met congressmen and activists of social movements organized in the Parliamentary Front for Freedom of Expression, coordinated by deputy Domingos Dutra (Worker's Party, Maranhão state), also president of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies. He took part in several debates organized by the National Forum for Democratization of Communications, visited ministries, went to the General secretariat of the Presidence of the Republic and to the University of Brasília.

Before that, however, La Rue entered in the lions' den. On Wednesday 12, early in the morning, the UN rapporteur visited the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (Abert), the main representative of of the oligopolies he battles against. In front of the president of the association, Daniel Slaviero, and about half a dozen of directors, he didn't feel embarrassed: La Rue criticized media monopoly, preached democratization of information and, to the uneasiness in his interlocutors, he defended the enforcement of Argentina's media law, the normative ghost that is haunting media barons in the region.

At the Chamber of Deputies, he declared himself "perplexed" with the standing of the Supreme Federal Court, which is about to revoke the age classification of TV programs, due to a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality presented by oppositionist PTB party and requested by Abert. "I can't remember of any other country whose Supreme Court is willing to sacrifice its children's rights."

After the request of more time to study the matter made by justice Joaquim Barbosa, the judgement in the Supreme Court was suspended last month, when four justices (Dias Toffoli, Luiz Fux, Cármen Lúcia and Ayres Britto) had already voted in favor of Abert's interests. Among these several appointments, La Rue granted Carta Capital magazine the following interview:

Carta Capital: What is freedom of expression?
Frank La Rue: It's a universal right, a right of every citizen, and not only of the big media corporations. Freedom of expression is not only press freedom. It's the right that the society has of being well-informed, it's a question of Justice and citizenship directly entailed to the premise of media diversity. Therefore, media monopolies are against freedom of expression and the full exercise of citizenship.

Carta Capital: Are monopolies the rule in Latin America?
Frank La Rue: In Latin America there is a common historical phenomenon because the entire structure of social communication was only conceived under the commercial point-of-view. And communication is much more than that, it's a public service. There is no problem in the fact that it's also business, nobody is against that, but what must prevail is the spirit of the service in favor the collectivity, done with quality and independence, in an objective and honest way. This can only work out of the structure of monopolies and inside a principle of media diversity and pluralism.

Carta Capital: What do you think about the transformation of these monopolies in oppositionist partisan structures, as happens in Brazil?
:Frank La Rue: There's no problem when media outlets place themselves or not as opposition forces to governments, as it happens in many parts of Latin America, this is part of the concept of freedom of expression. The problem is when the entire media, when all the media corporations, have the same political views. This kind of monopoly of opinions and thoughts is a violation, in fact a violation of freedom of enterprise itself. It's unfair competition.

Carta Capital: That's the reason why you have publicly declared your support for the Media Law presented by the government of Christina Kirchner in Argentina?
:Frank La Rue: In Argentina I supported the Media Law itself, not the government, because that's not my job. There, they made a correct division of telecommunications spectrum aiming to break the local monopoly (in the hands of Grupo Clarín) in three parts: commercial, communitarian, and public. In Uruguay, a similar law is being discussed, but it's even more advanced for its the product of plentiful dialogue with the population. That's fascinating, it's the way for national consensus.

Carta Capital: What's the role of internet in this process of breaking monopolies and democratizing information?
:Frank La Rue: It is very important to grant the right of accessing information, by digital inclusion, to the poorest populations living in the most remote areas. The new technologies can not be limited for a few, they must be shared with everyone. Everybody must have access to information and, at the same time, disseminate different opinions about several subjects.

Carta Capital: But how can we make it feasible?
:Frank La Rue: First of all, it's necessary to break the "social silence" that is a consequence of monopoly, only then it will be also possible to break the impunity and injustice cycles that derive from this [economic] model.

Carta Capital: As in Brazil?
:Frank La Rue: I can not talk about the specific case of Brazil since I'm not in official visit to this country. But the position of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is very important in this process of digital inclusion and net neutrality. It's fundamental that we keep this dialogue about net neutrality and securing it to all. Because there are a lot of people interested in regulating the internet in the name of national security, but their real intention is violating the privacy of citizens. I'm not against, of course, fighting terrorism. But we can not use this argument as an excuse to controle internet. In the case of internet, the legal framework are the human rights.

Originally published by Carta Capital, translated from Portuguese. Reproduction is allowed as long as the source is quoted.


Recently, DUer Judi Lynn posted a discussion thread related to this subject: "Thirty Berlusconis – South American giant’s flawed media landscape":


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Reply UN Rapporteur: Latin American media hurts freedom of expression and the exercise of citizenship (Original post)
ocpagu Feb 2013 OP
Peace Patriot Feb 2013 #1
sabrina 1 Feb 2013 #2

Response to ocpagu (Original post)

Tue Feb 12, 2013, 01:41 PM

1. This is a very, very, VERY important issue, here and in Latin America!

Thanks for posting this!

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Response to ocpagu (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 12:40 PM

2. That is an excellent article.

And a thoughtful, intelligent interview with La Rue. Once again it seems that Latin America is leading the way towards true democratic principles. Here in the US we do not even discuss the threat to Democracy that the conglomeration of big business ownership of our media presents. Worse, I read recently that Comcast is buying up more of our media.

Thank you for the link to Judy Lynn's thread, I missed that.

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