“The Only Control Over Narco News Is that of the Reader”

A Letter from Campinas, Brazil

September 14, 2004

CAMPINAS, BRASIL, SEPTEMBER 2004: They were ten days of extreme cultural exchange. Sixty-one people united in Cochabamba, in Bolivia, for the School of Authentic Journalism. They formed a network of interchange of inestimable experiences. The schedule organized by narconews.com included 36 scholars and 25 professors from July 30 to August 8. All the journalists wanted to learn or teach Authentic Journalism. Reports were filed in contrast to those made by Commercial Media that suffer from private sector censorship, thanks to their dependence on advertising. With grand political and economic interests behind them, these media evolve as large “news factories.”

“Information should be a right and not a product for sale,” noted Narco News South American Bureau Chief Alex Contreras. The money that sustains those businesses doesn’t touch, buy, or brainwash Authentic Journalists, or stain their codes of ethics. Journalists need to offer resistance, like the resistance of the Bolivian people. The Bolivians’ fight to possess their own resources has continued ever since the repression of the Spanish conquest. The same kind of repression is used intensively against peasant farmers who plant coca. They are classified as “narco-terrorists” under “Plan Dignity,” a policy imposed by the United States.

In Bolivia, Law 1008 governs the planting and eradication of coca, gravely damaging the cultural legacy of the indigenous who still walk tall with pride and their native languages. The Quechua people have demonstrated in Cochabamba how to maintain the traditions of their ancestors.

A Culture Preserved

The day before the School of Authentic Journalism began, we visited the house of some farmers in a nearby barrio. Authentic Journalist Amber Howard knew three women from the Labor Federation in Cochabamba, which rents a building on the Central Plaza. Scholars Nicolau dos Santos, Karla Aguilar, Zabeth Flores, Ben Melançon, Amber and I visited the home of Francisco Ramirez Sotelo, a descendent of the indigenous.

The house, where he lives with his wife and five children, is behind a mechanic’s shop. The yard contains pigs, chickens, a goat pen, and other animals. In a small pool there was a fish hatchery and two crocodile breeding pens. Mint was grown over almost the entire property.

The family continued with peasant farmer traditions. The house and property were surrounded by barbed wire, among other houses completely surrounded by walls. There was graffiti on virtually all of them, expressing revolutionary messages, one of which had the name of the indigenous insurgent Tupac Katari.

His children study. Two of them, Sigrit and Santina, go to the Universidad Mayor de San Simon. For them, it’s not about losing indigenous customs, but, rather, about trying to continue living in the political resistance occurring throughout the country.

The daily struggle of these people, who have forcefully resisted the external impositions of economic interests, is a story that must be told from a different angle than that used by Commercial Media.

The Problem and the Solution

In Brazil, the large media have a giant information deficit regarding our neighboring countries, especially one as poor as Bolivia. The majority of Brazilian publications barely repeat the discourse of the international press agencies, headquartered in countries with interests in exploiting the many natural resources of the Andean and Amazon regions; oil, gas and water serve as excellent motives for the media to distort what really is happening in Latin American countries. The conquest is not yet over! It has merely changed its way of doing things. A people must fight to be liberated from it!

If news about the fight against oppression is not published by the Commercial Media, the alternative media can shine a light where the market does not. Without selling out to the sponsors, freedom of expression thrives. The only control that can be exercised is by the reader, through your contributions and your feedback offered via email.

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The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 71051
Madison Heights, MI 48071

Muito obrigado,

Daniel Fleming
2004 Authentic Journalism Scholar
Campinas, Brazil


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