In 2007, the Ford Foundation sponsored three workshops on freedom of expression. Invited by Ford and the Consumers Union, I joined a U.S. delegation to attend the first gathering, the Global Partners Latin America Freedom of Expression Project Workshop, which was held from May 8-10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Charlene Allen, the Deputy Director of the Funding Exchange, participated in the second gathering, the Africa Freedom of Expression Project Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya from July 16–19. In November, I had the opportunity to attend the third one, which was held in Yogakarta, Indonesia from November 4-7. These workshops were part of a discussion series to explore the implications of digital networked communications on freedom of expression.
Taking the challenges and opportunities into consideration, the Project aims to answer four key questions:
1) Information and Debate Does the networked communications environment expand the ways we can get information and access public debate?
2) Civil Society Does the networked communications environment increase our ability to act together for change, nationally and transnationally?
3) Democracy Does the networked communications environment offer the possibility of changing how we ‘do politics’, empowering people and strengthening democracy?
4) Culture and Education Does the networked communications environment create more opportunities to share and develop human creativity?
The experience enabled Media Justice Fund to move outside the confines of the U.S. media world and to see the current communications environment beyond local and national boundaries. Through presentations and conversations, MJF found that, globally, people are attempting to build new infrastructures for a true democratic communications space and both face many challenges by governments or by domestic and international corporate ownerships.The different development processes are unbalanced and exclude those who have been traditionally marginalized. Free trade, deregulation and privatization, driven by marketing ideology, have caused enormous damage to peoples’ rights to communicate by:
The work of the MJF has a deeper understanding of the global media infrastructure, and through the project, we are connected better with the Media Justice movement in the U.S. and with our counterparts around the world. Together we will create a society free from poverty, violence and worldwide oppression.
Hye-Jung Park, Program Officer