Practicing Communication Commons in Honduras and South Korea

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* Article: Practising Communication Rights: Cases from South Korea and Honduras. By Dorothy Kidd



From the conclusion, by Dorothy Kidd:

"The MacBride Report described the emergence of a third way to democratize communication. It traced four distinct approaches: extending broad popular access to media and the overall communication system; participation of non-professionals in producing and broadcasting programs to‘make active use of information sources’ and an outlet for ‘artistic creativity;’development of ‘alternative’ channels of communication; and participation of the community and media users in management and decision-making(p. 169). Also, the commission concluded a section of its report, entitled the‘Democratization of communication,’ with a discussion about the ‘Right to communicate’ (p. 172). Thirty years on, MediACT and the Honduran network have operationalized all of these approaches in combined and comprehensive programs. They each model the self-governance of communication media, which enable non-professionals to participate in producing and circulating information, as well as cultural and artistic creations. Both communication projects express a profound revolt against the monopoly control of commercial media giants. In the case of South Korea, MediACT has also supported the broad popular participation of non-professionals in producing programming on the national public service networks. Both cases affirm CRs. Facing off against repressive regimes, both networks link CRs to more comprehensive understandings of political, economic, cultural and social human rights.

In Honduras, CRs, especially the rights of expression and the recognition of indigenous languages and cultures, is a vital part of claiming indigenous rights. In South Korea, achieving CRs func-tionsas a part of claiming rightsfor systematically marginalized groups, suchas workers, immigrants, disabled peoples, women and queer peoples, as wellas making political claims for extending the existing rights of expression toall ‘netizens’ in new digital communications platforms. MediACT and the Honduran community radio network demonstrate astrategic move forward from MacBride. They are rooted in social justice movements at the base of civil society, and not by national elites, government technocrats or social media entrepreneurs. If they arise from two very different contexts, they both represent resistance to the global neoliberal design for the development of their present and future physical and mediated territories. Although the first wave of anti-globalization movements,heralded by the Zapatista uprising in 1994, was only able to echo the‘many no’s, one yes’ against neoliberal enclosures, these two projects maybe considered to be a second wave, representing an increasingly complexunderstanding of networked local and planetary social change.They demonstrate a more sophisticated understanding of the relation-ships between dominant and counter public spheres than provided by the MacBride Commission’s rather simple conceptualization of ‘public opin-ion.’ They further show that democratic communication is about much more than ‘access’ to existing commercial or public service communication systems, or public reception of an ‘abundance of information from a plurality of sources.’ Their praxis of ‘public representation’ privileges multi-ple perspectives and creative expression, including social subjects who have been historically marginalized, especially urgent in these times of deepening structural inequalities and divisions. If, in the case of MediACT, the inclusion of training for soldiers and other less marginalized groups has been controversial, it must also be said that these projects of articulation are contingent and unfolding, building dialogue between ‘diverse movements whose identity of interests is not immediately given’ (Dyer-Witheford, 2007,p. 202).

Finally, out of design and necessity, they are engaging with the dominant spheres of transnational capital, media and the state. South Korea and Honduras have been historically marked by political and economic elites, reinforced by US-backed military dictatorships, and today, both countries face backlashes and retrenchments of the public spaces and rights that they have won. Facing a much shrunken public opening, and reduced public resources, MediACT is continuing to facilitate the direct representation of counterpublics as part of a wider claim of civil society for the redistribution of communication infrastructure, and for the redesign of themeans of production and distribution. In the post-coup period, Honduran community radio stations, such as the Lenca and Garífuna Network, have been an instrument of organization and struggle. Together with other com-munity radio stations, they revived AMARC-Honduras. Amidst the killing of journalists, and the fierce ongoing reprisals against their stations, and against indigenous and popular social movements, they continue to producemedia representations, reflections and analyses of mobilizations. Regardless of the outcome in both places, both projects have already created more participatory and autonomous media, and have modeled new forms of social justice networks, creating a common cause across social movement sectors and within multiple webs of translocal, regional and transnational arenas." (