Workshop on Communication and Citizenship: Recommendations to the World Social Forum

2001-04-12 00:00:00

On January 27-28, the Communication and Citizenship Workshop was held, as
part of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. After discussing the
situation of communication in the context of globalisation, the participants
agreed on some recommendations to the Forum.

The workshop considered that:

The transformations caused by the digital revolution in the world of
communication have resulted in this becoming a fundamental pillar of the
globalisation process.

Because of its consequent strategic importance, the communications field has
become the cutting-edge sector of the economy, characterised by its tendency
towards concentration in monopolies, fuelled by the mergers and alliances of
conglomerates which are the main agents of globalisation.

As a result of this process, these conglomerates, which control world
communication, have become a kind of second power which guarantees the
ideological hegemony of the neoliberal order.

In this new framework, information has become basically a commercial product,
in accordance with the neoliberal logic which establishes that everything has
a price and an owner and can be sold. It is thus not subject to rules, but to
the demands of the marketplace. Furthermore, a kind of "universal, neutral"
information dominates: uniform, one-dimensional and uni-source.

In the realm of social communication, a profound contradiction has thus been
established, between the interests of those conglomerates which control world
communication according to their mercantile criteria and the citizens' right
to free access to information which is objective, serious, independent and
from diverse and varied sources.

This situation prevents the great majority, and even more so the excluded
social groups, from expressing themselves publicly and making their needs and
demands known, an indispensable condition for democratic participation. This
also affects the freedom of journalists to practice their profession.

Since communication is one of the central factors in the globalisation
process, and at the same time one of the areas where the total dominance of
the market is expressed most strongly (for it is here that the direct threat
to the existence of a diverse and varied world is expressed), it is essential
that the struggle against this monopolizing concentration, and in favour of
the democratisation of communication, become one of the main focuses of
social struggle.

Given this situation, we recommend:

1. That the World Social Forum (WSF) gives this topic the importance it
deserves, on both a theoretical and practical level. The space and treatment
given to this topic by the organisers of the WSF were insufficient.

2. That the WSF embraces and promotes the struggle against the monopolisation
of communications media and systems, as a central focus of the struggle
against neoliberalism.

3. That the WSF supports the creation of public (citizens') media, autonomous
with respect to the state and economic and political powers, financed
according to the principle of economic solidarity and under the control of
civil society.

4. That the WSF recognises the importance of opening a public debate on the
impact and consequences of monopoly concentration in the communications
sector, both in the initiatives the WSF proposes or supports, and in those
areas where it intervenes on a regional or international level (World Trade
Organization, World Bank, G8, etc).

5. That the WSF rejects the arrogance of the World Bank in creating, with the
support of Microsoft, an international development portal, which rides
roughshod over the actions carried out in this area by different sectors of
civil society.

6. That the WSF defends the right to diverse and varied information as a
precondition for democratic participation.