Human rights are completely emptied of meaning when they are used as an argument to justify the bombing of countries.

20.06.2011 - Bonn - Pía Figueroa

Pride and Prejudice in reporting on rights violations: Will South and North ever meet?

I would like to begin by thanking those who have made my participation here today possible and by saying that I speak for Pressenza, an international news agency that specializes in news about Peace, Nonviolence, humanism and non-discrimination.

Pressenza reports on nuclear and conventional disarmament, the withdrawal of troops from occupied territories, the prevention and resolution of conflicts by non-violent means, as well as the progress of people in their social, cultural and political achievements. Our agency is international and covers news from around the world, giving priority to multicultural humanist perspectives. It establishes collaborative agreements and alliances with other agencies, and with links to many websites and other media.

Today, where the major formers of public opinion are not state-owned media corporations, they are multinational media companies at the service of multinationals in other sectors such as banking, industry and the military. As said by the Latin American thinker, Silo, *”Capital worldwide continues to concentrate in ever fewer hands—until even the nation state depends for its survival on credit and loans. All must beg for investment and provide guarantees that give the banking system the ultimate say in decisions. Big capital dominates not only our objectivity, through its control of the means of production, but also our subjectivity, through its control of the means of communication and information.”*

In this context and in order to serve the media corporations that control the global information market, “journalistic objectivity” ends up ignoring inequality, unemployment, exploitation, racism, discrimination, intolerance and the day to day violence experienced by millions of human beings.

Human rights are completely emptied of meaning when they are used as an argument to justify the bombing and invasion of countries. The stance that each media house takes on the issue of human rights reveals their character and direction. If only leaders, specially chosen for their countries’ natural resources, are the ones denounced for violating human rights; if it is not possible to report the invasion and bombing of territories as the biggest and most flagrant attack on human rights; if it is not allowed to criticize the United States, Saudi Arabia or China for their use of the death penalty or France for her xenophobic measures, and if multinational companies generate unsustainable global inequalities that cause famine, migration, genocide, exploitation and even terrorism, then we are not really speaking about human rights. If all of this, together with the prevailing political and economic system cannot be regarded as exercising a high level of human rights violations then we fall into hypocrisy and euphemism.

To speak of North and South in these conditions is wrong. What separates different editorial lines is the conception of human rights and who should respect them. From this dividing line it is possible to evaluate a story rather than judge or justify it based on a moral conception which has an affinity with international financial interests.

In Latin America, people have elected governments opposed to these established powers, only to be rewarded by an opposition-controlled media manipulating the news and stirring up discontent and violence. Such is the treatment that the media has given to the political process in Bolivia led by the Aymara Evo Morales, where the opposition has not only shown its face in Congress but also in the vast majority of the country’s newspapers and television channels whose content they control, and in which his policies of social inclusion and ethnic equality have been constantly vilified.

The same is true for Argentina, where the power of the Clarin News Group impedes, through legal trickery, the implementation of the Broadcasting Act which is designed to allow access to mass communication by many currently excluded sectors.

An example of the unscrupulous actions of Clarin is the non-inclusion in the cable network of the children’s channel “Paka-Paka”, promoted by the Ministry of Education in order to have advertising-free programming and content created especially for Argentines, a channel that speaks the local language, breaking the model of stereotypes imposed by the United States.

Also in Ecuador, Brazil, and—in particular—Venezuela, opposition powers have used all the resources at their disposal to influence the subjectivity of the public and deviate from the objective of greater equality to which the region aspires.

The CNN network recently ambushed the candidate of the party “Gana Peru”, subjecting him to an interrogation whose form and content discredits the journalist, confirming her as nothing more than a political operator at the service of the White House.

South America has taken human rights as the foundation of her societies, from Argentina to Venezuela through Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador, not forgetting Uruguay and Paraguay. Each case is different and particular, but all of them are bringing human rights to the forefront of their policies and comprehensively attacking violations on all fronts. In some cases the new policy has begun by dealing with past impunity, but with an eye toward the future. Statements by Evo Morales and Cristina Fernandez are daggers against the corporations and monopolies that make their profits from poverty, health, pensions and war, while these presidents’ policies move at great speed to disengage their countries from the dominant economic model.

This model is being challenged by large groups of people who are moving actively for their rights, from the Mapuche to the Qom, from Tahrir Square to Puerta del Sol. A new generation is taking the public space. Youth with no future are raising their voices time and again, calling for better living conditions that may lead out of the pain and suffering that the vast majority of our planet is doomed to suffer.

A servile attitude of media houses in front of economic interests undermines the credibility of their manipulated information and its intentions can be easily recognized. “Official” news is mistrusted and people in many parts of the world are making their own search for sources of reliable information and finding it in the non-aligned news media that delivers it with nothing to gain and no business to do.

This has also led to an interesting complementation with internet social networks, where messages denouncing abuses of power, unjust violations of human rights as well as calls to demonstrate against such violence in massive social protests, move at great speed. It is as if humanity, considered peripheral by the big powers, were becoming increasingly aware of its real power and creating a void in front of media manipulation, and taking their destiny into their own hands regardless of whether or not this gets them into the news, whether or not it obtains the recognition it so richly deserves.

In sum, in this new moment in which the old categories of North and South have become blurred and replaced by a centralized economic power that marginalizes the majority of humankind, the role of big media conglomerates in line with such power—and existing as a function of it—is losing credibility. People are ceasing to listen to the news media that manipulate information and instead they are beginning to choose to receive the denunciation of injustice and human rights violations directly and without intermediation, and broadcast by an independent media; people are standing up to end these abuses and looking to build a new future.

Categories: Europe, Human Rights, International, Opinions

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