STATEMENT TO THE 16th SESSION OF THE UN PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES BY THE INDIGENOUS MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS CAUCUS

Via Cultural Survial, April 26, 2017, https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/statement-16th-session-un-permanent-forum-indigenous-peoples-indigenous-media-and

Thank you, Madam Chair, and Indigenous brothers and sisters from around the world.

On behalf of the Indigenous Media and Communication Caucus to the United Nations, we would like to state the following:

To begin, as Indigenous journalists we salute the UN, for its effort to create the first ever Indigenous Media Zone during this 16th UNPFII session. We hope similar mechanisms may be created around the world in other UN sessions which are relevant to Indigenous Peoples to increase access for Indigenous journalists and bring information to our Peoples.

On the tenth anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples this year, we want to focus on the status of implementation of Article 16, which guarantees Indigenous Peoples the right to establish their own forms of media. As Indigenous community media journalists from around the world, we are evidence that Indigenous Peoples have wholeheartedly embraced this right to free expression, as it is crucial to maintaining our identity.

All around the world, Indigenous communities are making incredible efforts to establish media in our own languages, in our own communities, from, by, and for our communities. However, in many cases we have had to do this work under threats and intimidation and we regularly experience violence perpetrated by agents of own governments. As Indigenous community journalists, many of us live in fear of violence and criminalization simply for exercising our right to freedom of expression.

In Guatemala, in the 10 years since the Declaration was adopted, at least 12 community radio stations have been raided by the national police and Indigenous journalists have been thrown in jail, often without clear charges and for indefinite periods. This has happened because Guatemala’s telecommunications law fails to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ right to community radio, despite recommendations from Guatemala’s own Constitutional Court, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, various Special Rapporteurs, the UPR process, and more.

In other countries, such as Mexico and Colombia, our Indigenous journalist brothers and sisters have even been killed for their work. In Nepal and many other countries, the mainstream media is only available in dominant languages to the exclusion of Indigenous languages, making it inaccessible to many Indigenous Peoples and hampering Indigenous Peoples’ right to access information in the languages they understand.

Thus, we reiterate that although the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been in effect for 10 years, there is still much work to be done to achieve a full implementation of Article 16. We call for all States present today to participate in implementing this right to Indigenous media. Thank you very much.

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