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Sharpening Communication: Harnessing the Media to Build Solidarity

August 2018

The most effective social movements have often needed their own media to organize their struggles and challenge the powers that be. In the following blog, our volunteer Leonie Rauls looks at our support for the Global Peasant Solidarity Movement Building Initiative (GPSMBI) and popular media in Brazil.

This is the second year that Grassroots International has supported the Global Peasant Solidarity Movement Building Initiative (GPSMBI), a series of projects coordinated with our partner the Landless Workers Movement (MST) to support international social movements. At the heart of this initiative is political formation, a Latin American concept that is understood as providing people with the tools to engage in collective movements.

In the last two years, Grassroots has supported regional learning centers. MST volunteers organized renovations themselves, demonstrating initiative and collective action. The centers now have functional kitchens, ventilated classrooms, and updated plumbing. These renovations were crucial to develop a space for members to learn, exchange experiences, and build the movement together.

Looking forward, Grassroots is focusing our attention on harnessing the media to build solidarity and advocate for peasants’ rights. Media platforms are powerful communication tools for shaping people’s perceptions of the world. Yet, since the end of the military dictatorship in Brazil, 70 percent of the industry has remained under the control of only six families. Further research confirms that this lack of freedom of the press in Brazil is alarming. In 2018, Reporters Without Borders ranks Brazil as 102 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

The MST and Grassroots agree that it is imperative to develop a strong counter-information news source. The current media presents a conservative and neoliberal narrative that distorts and misrepresents the reality of the peasants’ struggle. To challenge this monopoly, GPSMBI has implemented new projects to develop independent news sources that tell the workers’ and peasants’ side of the story. The projects are both expanding these media outlets’ reach in Brazil, and giving peasants a chance to make them their own.

Group photo.The GPSMBI is funding media production and communications training through two media outlets. The international newsletter The Dawn covers popular struggles from an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, feminist and class-conscious perspective. Brasil de Fato, a popular communications group, reports on social movements across the country. Grants from GPSMBI will allow these outlets to tell more stories and expand their reach. Another goal of the initiative is to provide communication training for youth in grassroots organizations. These projects ensure that the people’s voices are heard, such as:

  • Improving media access to workers and low-income populations, paying special attention to the struggles of women, young people and Afro-descendant communities in Belo Horizonte through the Henfil Education and Communication Association.
  • Expanding the weekly Brasil de Fato print newspaper into ten traditional Afro-Brazilian communities over six months. In addition, this project will increase the circulation of newspapers to new audiences including urban Quilomba communities and traditional African religious communities.
  • Helping Brasil de Fato establish a newspaper in the state of Pernambuco, as an alternative to the corporate media monopoly. The newspaper will reach as many as 30,000 people and will cover issues facing social movements, students, and trade unions there.
  • Supporting Rádio Agência Brasil de Fato, a weekly audio program that will broadcast news, songs, and interviews to ensure that the content of Brazil de Fato reaches populations who do not have access to Brasil de Fato’s website or to the printed newspaper.

GPSMBI’s communications efforts are a step toward challenging traditional news sources and are changing people’s perspectives on peasant struggles.

About the Author: Leonie Rauls began interning at Grassroots International after graduating from Amherst College in May 2018. She has a degree in Political Science and Spanish, and wrote her senior honors thesis on Conditional Cash Transfers, a poverty alleviation program in Latin America. She hopes to continue conducting social policy research to help create a more just and equitable society.

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