The 11th World Social Forum held in Montreal last week supported a call by the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS) to strengthen community media in Canada and around the world. Specifically, the WSF supported i) the launch of a petition to the Government of Canada to enable a network of community-operated media centres to serve communities and voices not served by public- and private-sector media, and ii) to establish an international organization to advocate for community media in the digital environment.
The World Social Forum consists of 26 constituent assemblies dealing with issues as diverse as climate change, the world economy, land rights, and media. The petition was supported in all assemblies where it was introduced, including climate, defense of democracy, right to housing, and free media. Participants supported the crucial role community media plays in enabling dialogue and visibility about a gamut of local, regional and national challenges.
Catherine Edwards, Executive Director of CACTUS, presented the findings of the assembly on free media during the Agora held in Jerry Park on Saturday, August 13th, along with a representative of each of the other assemblies. She said “The World Social Forum is unique in that it develops a calendar of action to enable international players in civil society to coordinate their efforts. It’s not just talk.”
Other action plans adopted by the assembly on free media include the establishment of international working groups to protect journalists from violence, to strengthen indigenous media, to map the locations of organizations that support free and open expression, to publicize the World Charter on Free Media developed at the World Social Forum in Tunis in 2022, to
develop a web list of not-for-profit Internet service providers internationally, and to work with the Internet Governance Forum (the IGF) to support free and open data initiatives, net neutrality, Internet privacy, and direct citizen participation in Internet governance.
CACTUS took advantage of the World Social Forum gathering to launch its petition. “We collected signatures from WSF participants representing 30 electoral ridings. It was an opportunity to speak with students, researchers, NGOs and others from across Canada and around the world about the need for greater media diversity to maintain our democracies.”
The paper petition will be available to sign in MPs’ offices starting in September, 2022.