Communicators from Brazil's peripheries create a support network to defend human rights

Residents of favelas, villages and low-income neighborhoods all over Brazil gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the 1st National Meeting of Communication of the Peripheries. After four days of discussion between Oct. 12 and 15, 70 activists and communicators wrote a statement in which they committed to creating a network of support and action to use communication as a tool to fight for life and to guarantee human rights.

"Thus begins the creation of a great bank of inspirational and collaborative narratives to create empathy; questioning, to show how the State is present; reflective, to assert the power of the peripheries; solidarity, for the formation of a large and strong group of protection of communicators in each territory," the group wrote in the document.

One of the participants, Pedro Borges, co-founder of the site Alma Preta that focuses on issues of the Afro-Brazilian community, said that the proposal is important in the discussion of democratization of the Brazilian media. "[A support network] is the most efficient and most effective strategy to build a serious discussion about the democratization of the media," he told the Knight Center. "We have very great potential. We should and can guide the debate at the national level."

The communicators present at the meeting work in groups and associations away from the centers of large Brazilian cities in the states of Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul and the Federal District. A survey was conducted to select a sample of people close to the reality of Brazilian demographics: 50 percent women and 50 percent men; 54 percent Afro Brazilian residents.

According to Borges, the plurality of the participants encouraged the sharing of knowledge of different realities and particularities of each territory. "The exchange was incredible. We had the opportunity not only to exchange technology, knowledge and political positions, but also esteem," he said. "Identifying is important to trust each other to make a national network of the peripheries. It is vital that you look, recognize yourself. That alone will allow us to make a serious and strong fight against black genocide," he added, referring to the high number of black youths killed in Brazil.

The date of the meeting was chosen as a symbolic landmark taking advantage of the proximity of Oct. 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. One of the objectives of the event was to send a message about the strength of the peripheries to build a society with more justice, freedom and coexistence. "People on the periphery are already powerful in the city. We are meeting to amplify these voices," Eduardo Alves, director of Observatório de Favelas and one of the organizers of the event, told the Knight Center.

Alves explained that the meeting is a continuation of the International Seminar "What is periphery after all, and what is its place in the city?", which took place in March, also in Rio. At that time, communicators from the periphery assumed the role of fighting "the reductionist, stereotyped and disqualifying view of peripheral territories" in a collectively-written letter.

"We are joining contacts, identities, for action. We will hold other meetings, already targeting the international scale. There is collective participation from several sectors," he said, and emphasized:" The meeting is not an instrument of representation. It's organized collective action."

“The main obstacle we are already facing: the state and society see the territory of the peripheries as territory where violence and absence predominate. Lethal violence weighs on this territory,” Alves commented.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.