» Indigenous communication media are key to maintaining the survival of indigenous populations
29.08.2013 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

Indigenous communication media are key to maintaining the survival of indigenous populations

Photo: Elisa García-Mingo

Interview with Mireya Manquepillán Huanquil, representative of the community radio station, Kimche Mapu, located in Lanco, Los Ríos region, in the south of Chile.

In mid-August 2013, Mireya Manquepillán Huanquil participated in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination sessions in Geneva, Switzerland, where the representative of the Kimche Mapu community radio station talked about her Mapuche radio station located in Lanco, Los Ríos region, in the south of Chile.

In 2011, the radio station was affected by the application of a law in Chile to penalise unauthorised community radio broadcasti<a name="_GoBack"></a>ng, leading Kimche Mapu to suspend its broadcasting despite its repeated attempts to legalise its situation. In this regard, Mireya Manquepillán Huanquil presented in Geneva the report entitled “Situation of indigenous Community Radio Broadcasting in Chile: the case of the Kimche Mapu del Valle de Puquiñe radio station”.

How would you define the importance of indigenous media in Chile?

Indigenous communications media are key to maintaining the survival of the indigenous populations in Chile. They are the only media that we have access to, and are the only way we can promote our cultural identity as indigenous populations. We can use them to recover our customs, traditions, our language, etc. They are important because they allow us to access information and to have social, cultural and political participation. Freedom of expression is a right which the Chilean Government must guarantee.

Why did you feel the need to go to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)?
Because the Chilean Government has no intentions to legislate in favour of indigenous communications media, and especially Mapuche media. This is what I experienced, with the application of an article of the law to penalise radio stations, and despite the fact that the ILO Convention 169, the Indigenous Law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations clearly establish the Government’s responsibilities before the communications media, the Chilean Government in its reports to the CERD has not mentioned the communications media.

With the help of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (WACRB) International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), we were able to question the lack of support and denounce the Government for having no public policy to support Mapuche media. We were also able to discuss the role performed by these communications media in the democratisation of information and the cultural recovery of this country’s indigenous populations.

In your presentation, you ask to decriminalise community radio broadcasting and to create public policies that allow indigenous populations to develop communications media. How do these absences or weaknesses affect indigenous populations’ ability to exercise their freedom of expression?
In our country, the distribution of the electrical radio spectrum is considered to be a tradable good for those who manage communications today and who represent the strongest economic power in the country. The news agenda of the official media is completely full, and they manage and manipulate the information transmitted. Information related to indigenous populations is posed in a biased way, criminalising us in the case of the Mapuches, and distorting reality. Since the return to democracy, this country’s government has continued to follow a communications model generated during the dictatorship, which does not allow for the development of communications, especially by the Mapuche community. There have been no actions to promote the installation of Mapuche media and or to guarantee of the freedom of expression of Mapuche communicators.

The government has proposed a plan for 2014-2016 to promote indigenous radio stations. What considerations do you think they need to keep in mind in the development of this plan?
They should implement intercultural radio stations, promote the Mapuzugun language in the community and take into consideration the sociocultural reality of the area, as well as to promote Mapuche education in different spaces and not just in schools.

We need spaces for dialogue regarding the Mapuche economy, developed in the lof mapu*, as a sustainable source for the projection of this system to new generations.

* From Mapuzugún or Mapudungún (language of the Mapuche people): territorial space or jurisdiction in which the descendants of a family tree live in perfect harmony with their surroundings.

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