Chile is going through a very important historical juncture. On September 4, a binding plebiscite will take place in which the population will decide whether to leave behind the current Constitution, imposed in its essence by the Pinochet dictatorship, or to approve the new text drafted by the Constitutional Convention. With this step, a stage in the cycle known as the “Awakening of Chile” comes to an end, which reached its climax in October 2019 with massive popular mobilisations and which would also open the way for a change of political sign in the government.

In this context, the community, popular, independent and counter-hegemonic media have made progress in founding a trade association that brings them together under the acronym ANAMIC.

Journalists and media communicators who make up the Foro de Comunicación para la Integración de NuestrAmérica (FCINA) talked about all this with Paulina Acevedo Menanteau, Chilean journalist and president of the recently founded Asociación Gremial Nacional de Medios de Comunicación Independientes y Comunitarios de Chile (ANAMIC A.G).

From Brazil, journalist Vanessa Martina Silva, editor of Diálogos do Sul; from Argentina, Mariano Vázquez, from the Sangrre collective and Nora Leguizamón, member of Comuna (Comunicadores de Argentina) and producer at Radio Rebelde and Javier Tolcachier, from the international news agency Pressenza, took part in the Forum.

The plebiscite on the New Constitution

Asked about the dichotomous situation posed by the plebiscite on the constitution, Paulina pointed out that as a union they have formed a Comando por el Apruebo, since the new text lays new foundations for a profound transformation of the country and expresses the diversity that characterised the social movement that made it possible. “Hope must be raised and fear must be banished”, he said, commenting on the meaning of the campaign they are carrying out as communicators.

On the decline in the government’s popularity reported in some polls and its possible link to the increase in the “rejection” vote, the interviewee commented that the first government measures, which are usually vital for the initial evaluation of the administration, have received a lot of criticism. Criticism that, according to the communicator, emanates above all from some of the inconsistencies of Boric’s government in terms of repression of social protest and also the relationship with the Mapuche people, with the maintenance of the state of emergency in their territory.

A new stage in Chile’s relations with Latin America

As for relations with Latin America, Acevedo pointed out that this is a political priority in the proposal for the new Constitution. The civilian military coup d’état cut short the Latin Americanist process in which the Unidad Popular was framed, but now the roots with Latin America and the Caribbean are going to begin to be recovered. There is also a process of maturing of the peoples, who are preparing to confront the dismantling of the Latin American union. Borders and distancing have also affected indigenous peoples, who have been divided and constrained in their joint construction, which needs to be rebuilt.

As a framework for integration, beyond the institutional framework, the interviewee pointed out that “relations between countries go beyond governments, they are made by the people”, while affirming that “Latin America deserves to be understood as a single continent, and the changes in political signatures that we have today augur the possibility that we will be able to do so”.

When asked about the possible industrialisation of lithium reserves in conjunction with Argentina and Bolivia, Acevedo stated that this equation is complex, due to the tension involved in achieving a balance between the exploitation of common natural resources for development and social benefit and the impact on the communities that inhabit the territory, in addition to the fact that these resources are part of extremely fragile ecosystems. Although there is a big difference between transnational exploitation or exploitation under a sovereign and articulated orbit between regional governments, the problem lies in the fact that mining, even with technological innovations, is still the most polluting activity in the world, a dilemma to which answers will have to be found.

He also emphasised that the new Constitution brings improvements in the new deliberative forms that communities will have with regard to these issues, but that the fundamental debate is about the development model that is to be followed.

For a new Media Law and the importance of community communication

With regard to the formation of ANAMIC, its current president said that the space created from the possibility of drafting and submitting a popular proposal for a law to the Constitutional Convention, whose name “Luis Polo Lillo” pays homage to the founder and director of Señal 3 de La Victoria, was key.

In this space, different processes that had already been under construction for some time came together. ANAMIC is not only a network of radio, television or print media; it is a multiplicity of communication platforms that accelerated its formalisation as a trade association based on the political mandate imposed by the historical situation.

Regarding the question about the difficulties posed by the distances and diversity of situations, particularly for the participation of indigenous peoples in communication, Paulina expressed that it is precisely the community media that fulfil the function of proximity to the population. It is the difference between a public policy approach from a distant centrality or considering a networked framework, which resolves the issue. The new Constitution, he added, establishes the mandate to promote community communication, which must start by recognising and building on the points that already exist and improving their conditions, in order to establish a communication policy and thus reach the whole country.

Chile still has a telecommunications law that was introduced in 1983 by the dictatorship, so democratisation implies a new media law that includes three thirds: the public sector, which has been practically dismantled, the private sector and the community sector, which has been reduced to a minimum. At the same time, the distribution of compulsory state advertising should be established in accordance with this law. The struggle is great. The relationship between community media and social movements is of vital importance in order to achieve profound changes in this area. In addition, there are already good experiences in the region from which to create and move forward, she said.

Paulina stressed that it is fundamental in political terms to recognise the community sector as an excluded, persecuted and criminalised sector. Recognition of the pre-existence of community media, as is the case with indigenous peoples, is a minimum to begin a relationship. He also highlighted how violent repression mainly affects popular communicators, as in the case of the murder of Francisca Sandoval and other communicators injured on the occasion, which clearly aims to intimidate and silence critical voices.

Finally, he welcomed the shared intention of a Latin American integration of popular communication. The conquest in each country is the conquest of communication in the entire regional space. As communicators, it is necessary to unite and give ourselves a space to strengthen what distinguishes us as community media and to address the challenges of communication in this new era.