This Interview was granted when we joined to APC- June, 2017
“Intervozes fights for democracy and freedom, so that everyone from all religions, races, backgrounds, can be respected, seen and heard. Enough of invisiblity. Join the fight for the right to communicate!”
With this statement of principles, Brazilian NGO Intervozes welcomes visitors to their work, which focuses on raising awareness among the Brazilian public of the freedom of expression as a right for all and fighting for diversity and plurality in the communication field through varied strategies.
You work with groups that are misrepresented or eve harmed by the media. Can you tell us more about these groups and how you work with them?
Intervozes works for improving representation in media as a whole, defending regulations and policies that can overcome the impressive concentration in Brazilian mass media. The enforcement of the right to communicate depends on truly media diversity and plurality. In order to achieve that, Intervozes combines advocacy and monitoring activities with awareness raising, political articulation with social movements and content production. In our opinion, a public communication system, as we see in European tradition, with social participation in the programming definition and proper funding, is one of the keys for a representative and diverse media. This is why the strengthening of the public system, seriously attacked in Brazil nowadays, is among the main pillars of our work.
Regarding the harmful effects of an undemocratic media on misrepresentation, Intervozes is part of the “Network Woman and Media”, which deals with gender offenses committed by the communication vehicles, either denouncing them to the public opinion or to the competent authorities. Furthermore, the Network plays the role to further the public debate around the misrepresentation of the women in the media, depicted as products, inferior beings or targets of an often naturalized violence. This is part of a broader problem related to human rights violations within the media system, which strikes also other vulnerable groups. In 2016 Intervozes launched a still ongoing campaign called “Media without violations”[>http://www.midiasemviolacoes.com.br/<] geared towards exposing and denouncing human rights violations particularly on broadcasting shows dedicated to cover crimes, following the police daily work. These shows humiliate the suspects and their families, incurring in several injuries with regard to human rights and the rule of law. The campaign website receives complaints in order to build a ranking about such violations. Also in this matter, Intervozes fights for the respect of the children and youth rights on TV programming, supporting administrative and judicial measures to ensure that abusive content is not broadcast at inappropriate hours.
You refer to critical reading as a vital skill in a democracy, how do you cultivate this?
We frequently release media coverage analysis on our blog at a progressive Brazilian magazine [Blog do Intervozes na Carta Capital], especially at important dates or processes to our political scenario (eg, the escalation of events that led to the coup against the President Dilma Rousseff or the media coverage during days of national mobilization in opposition to austerity reforms).
We seek to demonstrate how imbalanced the coverage is, omitting substantial information, listening to only one side or providing it much more time compared to the other side, and stating the media company position as a fact instead of clarifying its nature of editorial opinion. In addition, we have published two more detailed reports dedicated to assessing and providing evidence of media bias. The first one was concluded in 2011 and concerns the news about a Parliamentary Commission that investigated the main Brazilian movement of landless rural workers (MST). [Vozes Silenciadas I]
The second one was published in 2014 and focus on the media coverage during the massive protests that occurred in Brazil in June 2013 [Vozes Silenciadas II].
Why is “the Internet not likely to be an effective way to introduce a plurality of voices in the short term”?
The Internet undoubtedly has the capacity to leverage plurality and diversity in communications and has already given many important demonstrations on how it can enhance the exercise of human rights. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the problems and challenges related to the traditional mass media did not disappear with its advent. Impressive market concentration and redesigned models of information gatekeeping increasingly consolidate new powerful intermediaries with the ability to determine how this information will be shared and accessed on a global basis, often reproducing the “bubble” dynamics and reinforcing cultural bias (applying North American values as “universal” standards). Moreover, the digital divide, reflected in the imbalance from which different countries and populations access, use and conceive the ICTs, has led to a network with mainly English content and with other inequalities in relation to gender, religion, ethnicity, among others.
What is the most challenging part of your work, what you struggle, find obstacles with the most?
We would say that the most challenging part of our work can be summed up in three elements regarding the achievement of our main goal, which is promoting and guaranteeing the right to communicate. Firstly, there is the concerted resistance of the media and communication market, a very powerful one, especially when defining among public opinion what should be prioritized and what should be rejected. Such influence takes us to the second element, which is the governments’ immobilization before the significant lack of media diversity and plurality in Brazil – a mix of na effective pressure carried out by the communication companies and an absence of political view of these governments about the importance of the issue to our democracy. Lastly, the third element is related to the lack of awareness of the general population about their right to communicate, often reproducing the media companies discourse that regulation or communication policies would harm freedom of expression instead of enhancing it. All these three elements are connected and the task of reverse or face them, considering a broader and convergent concept of communication, is exactly what our work is about.
Tell us some stories of success, how your work has impacted your community.
We would like to share three stories that are a good set of examples about how we work on communication issues:
- Approval of the Brazilian Internet Civil Rights Framework (Marco Civil) – Intervozes joined the coalition of organizations that was deeply involved in monitoring and contributing to Marco Civil proceeding in the Brazilian National Congress. Especially during 2013 and 2014, we played a strategic role carrying out a wide range of activities. Since we were one of the few civil society organizations with a permanent representative in Brasilia, our contribution in building the bridge between what happened daily in Parliament and the NGOs coalition mobilization/pressure initiatives was an important element within the set of aspects that led to Marco Civil approval in 2014.
- “Rights of reply” TV show – in 2006, in partnership with the Federal Prosecutor Office and other organizations, Intervozes filed a lawsuit against a TV channel and granted the request of counter-advertising for violation of human rights. Thereafter, we coordinated the political conception and the production of 30 TV programs that broadcasted more than 400 videos of independent producers in the open TV – these TV programs were called “Rights of reply” [Direitos de Resposta].
- National Conference on Communication – the first (and only so far) National Conference on Communication, held on 2009, was a process that involved more than 30.000 people across the country to discuss communication policies in Brazil. It was a process of consultation to Brazilian society organized by the federal government and co-coordinated by some civil society organizations. Intervozes was one of them. Our task was to mobilize popular movements and activists in states and regions where we operate to participate in the process; to develop public policy proposals to be discussed and voted on; to produce awareness materials and information on the sector to different levels of discussion; to negotiate proposals of public policies with public authorities at all levels; and to discuss these proposals with the business sector. In this process, Intervozes managed to elect one of the largest delegations of civil society to the national stage of the Conference and had most of its proposals approved by the delegates. After the process, the movement on media democratization grew significantly in the country.