“We Must Be Our Own Media”
Rosalie Bertell, 1995
This is a compilation of many papers by a diverse (mainly male) group of academics and writers from around the globe. As such, one expects different view points from a group that worked on a research project that spanned years and continents. Still, I found it was a mixed message – the title very moderate and safe with a Zapatista subtitle don’t seem to go together.
The editors however make some points clear in the introduction; many of the contributors believe that global media, those with global wealth and distribution, are not embedded in peace or democracy but in systems of domination and structural violence. So what else is new? Social movements have long since discovered this and have gone on to create new forms of media that are furthering democracy and social justice. Some of the contributors are involved in this process and provide so valuable information and insights. It is unrealistic, to say the least, to expect big corporations to do anything else except serve corporate interests and democracy isn’t one of their interests.
I was particularly heartened to read about the development of peace journalism and the critique of war reporting. Annabelle Sreberny of the UK gives an excellent critique of women in/and media. She details the development of many independent women’s publications around the world that give women’s perspectives on all issues. The lack of women’s representation in male-mainstream media is, she says, a human rights issue. So women have organized print, film and radio responses.
Now we have gone from networking to working the net. Women, as have many social action movements, are developing computerized communications. The mainstream also uses the web, but the low cost and ease of use has created a significant space for “our own media”. There are concerns expressed in this book about the access to internet use and that in every country it is most likely to be used by urban, educated (particularly in English) activists and be inaccessible to rural, poor and those not literate in a major world language. And, yes, one big problem facing social activists is how we develop our own media to reach those now outside it and even oblivious to the independent media. This book doesn’t give many answers, but it does pose many vital questions and provide some useful background information; although I believe that only by ignoring and delegitimizing corporate media and by developing and supporting our own independent and community media will we ever have democratic media.