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Understanding the human rights of indigenous people

By EMN Updated: Jul 31, 2013 1:44 am

Kohima, July 30

The Indigenous Voices in Asia (IVA) project aims to ensure that indigenous peoples in Asia have access to all forms of media as enshrined in Article 16 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A 4-day regional networking workshop and developing indigenous media strategy was organized in Bangkok in Thailand from July 15-18 as part of the IVA project. The workshop was initiated by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, an organization of indigenous peoples’ movement in Asia. The event brought together Human Rights activists and Journalists from several parts of Asia including India, Myanmar, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Thailand. The two participants from India were Suanmoi from Zomi Human Rights Foundation in Manipur and Vish­ü Rita Krocha from Kohima Press Club of Nagaland.
After thorough deliberations from the participating countries, the participants agreed that the main barriers and challenges in mainstreaming indigenous peoples’ issues are ownership and censorship, geographical isolation and poor infrastructure, and unequal access to information.
These barriers and challenges were mostly drawn from situations in partner countries including Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, and Nepal, and more inputs from other participating countries. Because of strict media regulations, harassment from governments and corporate owners’ interests, it held that journalists from mainstream media self-censor their reports on politically sensitive issues, such as indigenous peoples rights related issues and that, most of the mainstream media agencies are also stationed in Capitals. Further due to geographical isolation and poor communication infrastructures, mainstream journalists do not reach the indigenous communities and indigenous communities are not able to bring their issues and concerns to mainstream media.
While on the other hand, lack of real understanding about the indigenous peoples’ rights and issues among non-indigenous journalists lead to romanticizing, stereotyping and criminalizing indigenous peoples in mainstream media and the lack of media professional skills among indigenous journalists limiting their representation in mainstream media.
Lack of inclusiveness of indigenous journalists in newsrooms and editorial positions in mainstream media has also been identified as one of the factors leading to under-reporting of indigenous peoples’ issues and concerns.
Language is further noted to be a big barrier for indigenous peoples to have access to information while Geographic isolation and poor infrastructure in remote areas limit indigenous peoples to access timely information from mainstream media. In the meantime, administration red tape and legal restrictions to receive broadcasting license also hinder indigenous peoples to set up their own community media apart from limited media management skills, lack of women journalists in media industry and lack of coverage on indigenous women issues respectively.
In this regard, the Regional Networking Workshop and Developing Indigenous Media Strategy recommended capacity building, advocacy and networking to address issues relating to indigenous peoples more effectively.
The other strategies are to prioritize capacity-building trainings, regional skills exchange workshops, national stakeholders’ consultation with government and civil society in four countries, ASEAN regional consultation on media, ten dialogue workshops between media representatives and indigenous media/rights activists in five targeted countries under IVA project and award for outstanding reporting on indigenous peoples’ issues/rights.

By EMN Updated: Jul 31, 2013 1:44:50 am