08.05.2014 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

UNESCO commemorates World Press Freedom Day with debate on pluralism in the media

An event was held in Santiago de Chile on 7 May, 2014 to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, organized jointly by the Regional Bureau of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago), the country’s professional body for journalists, and the South American Correspondents’ Union. Pluralism in the media and the post-2015 agenda were the centre points of two debates held, with the participation of leading communicators and opinion makers.

The event was opened by the Minister of the General Secretariat of the Government, Alvaro Elizalde, who thanked the organisers for inviting him and declared that “for a fit democracy, with a capital letter, we need a multiplicity of communications media. In this framework, in Chile we do not have the diversity that we ought to have, but rather a concentration of media organizations. We have to advance towards guaranteeing that there are more communications media, and that they express different outlooks”.

Meanwhile Marcelo Castillo, the president of Chile’s professional body for journalists, the College of Journalists, put it that “Freedom of the press is not just an absence of explicit restrictions on the work of journalists, but rather also the explicit recognition of the right to information and communication in the Constitution, which implies a public policy that guarantees the creation of media for all citizens”.

The first discussion session, on Communication and media development policies for Chile, featured María Pía Matta, who chairs the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters; Mauricio Weibel, chair of the South American Correspondents’ Union; Javiera Olivares, vice-president of the College of Journalists of Chile, and Camilo Ballesteros, director of the Chilean governmental Division of Social Organizations.

Pía Matta, who was lauded by Reporters Without Borders as one of the 100 Information Heroes of 2013, spoke out about governments’ responsibility, specifying that “It is now not enough for the State not to get involved, because we have arrived at a paradigm where citizens’ freedom of expression is in difficulties, as the major multinationals now do not necessarily allow the expression of voices that do not participate in the public debate.” 

In turn, Mauricio Weibel explained how for correspondents “it is worrying that the major economic groups have started to buy up the communications media; it is now the banks, the major retailers, who are starting to control the communications media. So, there are not only few media outlets for journalism development, but also a clear conflict of interest. We have to develop free and plural media”.

The second discussion, on the Situation and perspectives for pluralism in Chile, featured Patricia Muñoz Palma, director of the information science programme at CONICYT; Patricio Fernández, Director of The Clinic magazine; Ernesto Corona, President of ANATEL; Manuela Gumucio, Directorof the FUCATEL Media Observation Group, Laurie Fachaux, Secretary-General fo the Chilean Correspondents’ Association.  The panel was moderated by Claudia Lagos.

To close the event, Andrés Pascoe, in representation of the UNESCO Office in Santiago, stated that “This year, the international community has a unique opportunity to draw up a long term agenda for sustainable development to follow on from the Millennium Development Goals after 2015. Applying this agenda well will demand that all groups of people enjoy their fundamental rights of freedom of opinion and expression: essential components of democracy, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law, and vital features for human dignity, social progress, and inclusive development.”

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