Journalism of the left in times of the right

Source:  Granma
March 13 2019

The truth can be silenced, if it does not reach everyone, or is drowned out by lies shouted louder

walter martinez telesur.jpgWalter Martínez is one of those journalists who struggles everyday to spread the truth on his teleSUR program. Photo: panorama.com.ve

As children, one of the first things we learned was that there is strength in unity. Be it from “Once upon a time” tales or the stories of Mama Oca, we came to understand that all together we could move mountains, while alone, the road was steeper.

Later, something simple, that could be so easily understood at an early age, became increasing complicated as the years went by, as we divided ourselves as independent, sometimes selfish, beings, in search of our own wellbeing.

What may appear as no more than a bedtime story is applicable in all spheres of life, even politics, as the people of Latin America should know.

The conservative restoration

The years when Hugo Chávez began a project in Venezuela to put those who were last first – joined by 11 progressive governments across Latin America and the Caribbean, beginning in 1998 – may seem like a long time ago, given the current panorama.

But, as Basque political analyst and journalist Katu Arkonada said on teleSUR: “The 2009 coup against Mel Zelaya in Honduras; the parliamentary coup against Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012; the 2016 impeachment of Dilma in Brazil; and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, allowed the attempted conservative restoration to be partially accomplished.”

A restoration which now includes Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian Trump, as the new head of state is known, who is creating a military government, according to the eminent intellectual Frei Betto.

In Ecuador, since the end of Rafael Correa’s administration, the left has been split, and the Citizens Revolution social project dismantled.

Venezuela, for its part, is facing a difficult moment and a fierce media campaign intended to create confusion and fear, to destabilize the country and discredit the government of Nicolás Maduro, democratically elected by a clear majority.

The role of committed media and journalists

So, given this discouraging panorama, what is the role of committed media and journalists? How can we advance the struggle when giant media corporations like O Globo, in Brazil, or Clarín, in Argentina, defend capitalist interests?

Surrender will never be the solution. We must fight, use our revolutionary self-criticism, reach the people; portray the governments that have reduced poverty, provided health, education, and jobs.

This lesson is a pending issue for the left in countries where today neoliberalism is being imposed on our peoples.

Argentine journalist and intellectual Stella Calloni, in an interview with Granma, noted that the left is going through a difficult moment; that in her country telling the truth can be very expensive, as the 3,000 media workers dismissed for “ideological differences” know well.

This is happening in Brazil, too, where television broadcaster O Globo controls 80% of the country’s stations. Journalist Beto Almeida, told Granma, that reporters are suffering persecution, highlighting the case of his two colleagues Juca Kfouri and Jean Wyllys, whose lives have been threatened.

Venezuela offers another example of the damage that new media can do if used maliciously. The truth, if it does not reach everyone, and is drowned out by lies shouted louder, can be silenced. Infamous fake news reports, spread by unethical professionals who prioritize impact over accuracy, influence individuals with manipulative, manufactured scenarios.

The need for journalists of the left to come together

Given this reality, Stella Calloni emphasizes the need for journalists of the left to come together to tell the stories that don’t make the headlines, “We are coming up with ways nows, for example, bringing together all individuals who have web sites to struggle as alternative media, bringing them together to have an amalgam of voices to tell what is happening and is not known.”

Brazilian sports reporter Juca Kfouri commented, “Journalism is characterized by its attempt to make a better world,” and given this premise, he continues to denounce what is going on in his country, despite the threats, using football to raise consciousness.

It is clear that, in the current scenario, more than ever the courage is needed to open the eyes of readers, viewers, radio listeners, knowing how to use media weapons is an urgent challenge. Calloni, in comments made during the International Journalism Forum, emphasized that information is a weapon of war, and reaffirmed that we are facing a cultural battle, with painful results, in which discredit is stronger than a bullet. The right knows how to use these weapons well. The facts show it. Numerous studies show that WhatsApp played a key role in Bolsonaro’s electoral victory. A similar case is that of U.S. President Donald Trump. As journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde expressed in a recent lecture: “We are facing a new media architecture. While the mass media imposes the agenda, others deal with the personal and emotional base. Today public opinion is not built exclusively with published opinion, but with shared opinion. ”Social media move emotions, which in turn move voters who go to the polls without confirming what they read, accepting Facebook posts as unquestionable truth.

Thus the importance of finding new ways of communicating, while preserving ethical practices of the trade, without resorting to crude manipulations. Seeking, as Calloni said, “a creative way to resist.”

Life online and offline

IN CONTEXT:Many times the debate within the left is lost, counterpoising taking the street versus taking the internet, as if they were mutually exclusive. If there is a central task on the left, it is to understand that life online and offline are not separate, they are a continuum, part of a single body, and the internet can be many things, except an intangible, ethereal world apart. Cyberspace is the heart of a supranational system that is directly related to physical space, in at least three dimensions. First, its communication routes, nodes, and servers (physical infrastructure) are located somewhere geographically. Second, the protocols or rules of the game that allow people to connect – domains – have a national identity and involve zones of sovereignty, state control, and their own language. And third, cyberspace emphasizes physical geography in a special way: with services, navigation devices, technical gadgets, and mobile devices, which create an interactive map of interconnected channels of information, technology, and people. People have nationality, obey laws, and are also physically present somewhere.

It is not chaos, there are laws. This scenario is regulated by hierarchies and the main network nodes (internet) located in a specific physical spot, which accentuate the disparities of contemporary society, establishing a new map in which center and periphery are clearly located. Of course, notions of time and space, of power and freedom, the individual and the collective, the public and private, national and international culture, and the productive and unproductive, but all within this hegemonic capitalist framework. Within this structure, the development of new models of mediation is encouraged, impacting subsystems of production, distribution, and consumption, on the one hand, and the mechanisms of social reproduction and power, on the other.

Source: Lecture by Rosa Miriam Elizalde during the International Journalism Forum, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Cuba’s Mission Truth and the foundation of Prensa Latina.