Stories written by Mario Lubetkin
Mario Lubetkin is Assistant Director General at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

EUROPE-LATIN AMERICA: CLOSE IN TRADE, WORLDS APART IN NEWS COVERAGE

While a considerable portion of economic and trade data shows that relations between Europe and Latin America are positive, reinforcing their historic cultural closeness, for some time now news about Latin America has been a low priority for the European media, which is effecting the thinking of the leaders and citizens of the old continent and pushing Latin America in a direction that runs contratry to European interests.

NOW A GLOBAL PLAYER, THE SOUTH MUST DEVELOP ITS MEDIA

There is a striking asymmetry between the new political and economic world order that has been emerging from the South over the last five years and the relative immobility of the international system of information, which only partially reflects the major transformations of our age.

MEDIA METAMORPHOSIS

Major global depressions, like the current one, always have a domino effect that reaches almost every economic and social activity. The media, however, tend to focus on only a few of its manifestations -those that strike the centres of power- while neglecting the periphery where poverty deepened by the crisis has far more dramatic consequences.

BELEM VS DAVOS: ECONOMIC ESTABLISHMENT STEALS LIMELIGHT DESPITE CULPABILITY

The media gave ample coverage to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, attended since its beginning in 1971 by the same politicians and businessmen who have sustained for decades that financial capitalism was progressing towards a certain and every more generous prosperity and who now promise that they will revive it without offering any plausible explanation for the current catastrophic recession.

CLIMATE CHANGE: WE NEED A PROACTIVE MEDIA

There is no moderately well-informed person who does not believe that climate change is if not the gravest threat facing humanity at least one of the top two or three. It is therefore worth asking whether the performance of the media in this regard rises to the challenge, writes Mario Lubetkin, Director-General of Inter Press Service (IPS). In this analysis, Lubetkin writes that addressing climate change cannot be achieved without the application of firm and constant pressure by informed and responsible citizens on governments and industry and without pushing for more effective action by civil society. It is inconceivable that the people can play this role without being well-informed, oriented, and stimulated by the media. Although it is correct to recognise that in the last decades the space dedicated to the environment has increased, it is also right to expect the media to improve their coverage by abandoning their attitude of merely passing on information and beginning to work actively to shape the opinion of the public and those in power such that they comply with the objectives set by the international community to address the problem of climate change.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FOURTH ESTATE

Should the media, which shape public opinion and orient a major part of our actions --political, commercial, social. cultural-- share the same responsibilities as civil society organisations that fight for human rights and discriminated-against minorities around the world? asks Mario Lubetkin, director general the IPS News Agency. In this article the author writes that more and more media feel an identification with a mission that cannot be reduced to transmitting information and feel bound by a sense of social responsibility. We think that the code of conduct voluntarily adopted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which was written by themselves, contains elements that may be appropriate for the oversight and analysis of the media given the nature of their respective missions. The universal values of human rights, independence, freedom from discrimination, transparency, an ethic of self-financing, the practise of critical vision and evaluation, are some of the concepts that might be accepted by and applied to the media themselves. This might establish a common ground between these two major actors in the contemporary world.

A NEW ERA FOR GLOBAL NEWS AND COMMUNICATIONS

Al Jazeera\'s plan to win a section of the western market by launching an English-language channel last November set off a global battle for giant audiences by other international TV networks, writes Mario Lubetkin, director-general of the IPS news agency. In this analysis, Lubetkin writes that although the spokespeople of BBC of London and France 24 do not attribute their entrance into the universe of television to competition with Al Jazeera\'s English channel, what is certain is that both have announced or begun this month a pilot phase of satellite channels in Arabic. But without credibility, the new companies have no future, which was the case with the Arabic-language channel Al Hurra, promoted by the US government. And respect for the local and regional culture is more important than the last technological advance or the deep pockets of investors.

IS THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM ALREADY OLD NEWS

Despite the success of the seventh World Social Forum (WSF) held last month in Nairobi, media coverage of the massive event continues to wane, in sharp contrast to the prominence the event was given in its first few years, writes Mario Lubetkin, Director-General of the IPS news agency. In this article, the author writes that the decision to hold the next central forum in 2009 and leave 2008 for protest actions in various parts of the planet effectively postpones the work of building an image of a World Forum that generates serious, realistic alternative proposals in response to the major, dangerous problems that affect humanity. The silence that may fall over the forum for such a long period, despite the local and regional forums set for coming months and years, could aggravate this tendency and as a result generate even more disillusionment for many of those who are betting on the forum and its defiant motto: \'\'Another world is possible.\'\'

AL JAZEERA EXPANDS

With Al Jazeera poised to launch its international service for broadcast outside of the Arab region, the time seems right to examine the reasons for its remarkable expansion, its considerable influence, and the innovations that make it stand out in the world of the media, writes Mario Lubetkin, Director General of IPS news agency. In this article, Lubetkin writes that Al Jazeera is different from all of its predecessors in the Arab world. While its reporters trained at the BBC, it was Al Jazeera that inspired Dubai\'s Al Arabiya and the Arab Emirates\' Abu Dhabi Television. Whether or not one agrees with the new network\'s approach, it must be acknowledged that its style of reporting has unleased a cultural revolution in the region. One important development is the recent signing of an agreement between Al Jazeera and Telesur, the Latin American TV network promoted by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. This might signal an incipient tendency towards the interlinking of previously unconnected regional networks thus far dependent on US and European material.

POVERTY AND DEVELOPMENT:: SPARSE MEDIA COVERAGE MAY MAKE THEM WORSE

Journalists who specialise in development and cooperation face a very difficult reality, and one that is very hard to change: there is very little room for this subject in the media, writes Mario Lubetkin, Director General of IPS.

POVERTY AND DEVELOPMENT: SPARSE MEDIA COVERAGE MAY MAKE THEM WORSE

Journalists who specialise in development and cooperation face a very difficult reality, and one that is very hard to change: there is very little room for this subject in the media, writes Mario Lubetkin, Director General of IPS. If the media give this subject so little room, are we to conclude that, despite their prominence in the agenda of the international community, that development issues simply aren\'t that important? If nothing changes, while information and the debate on economic development and the fight against poverty do not reach the general public, international cooperation will remain the exclusive domain of specialists and functionaries, far from the people. And without the participation and commitment of the people, it is unlikely that governments will do all that they can and should to carry out a programme as ambitious and strewn with obstacles as the MDGs.

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: ANOTHER MODE OF COMMUNICATION IS POSSIBLE

Analysis of the world media carried out after the Fifth World Social Forum (26-31 January) showed that coverage of the Forum\'s activities has shrunk, writes Mario Lubetkin, director-general of IPS. This development seems to jar with the fact that the WSF is the largest and most representative forum of civil society, with higher attendance this year than ever -- about 150,000 -- as well as more than 4000 accredited journalists present from around the world, Lubetkin writes in this analysis. We must pay attention not only to media coverage but also to gaps in coverage caused by media policies, the author argues. It is a question of understanding who decides, and why, to limit coverage of the major themes of civil society, in particular those related to development, which though extremely important to the future of humanity are too often pushed aside by frivolous stories. Only a combination of serious, creative, and participatory initiatives will make it possible to move from the simple assertions and critiques regarding what is covered badly or not at all to a process that provides citizens with the information they need to understand, make decisions, and act. Lubetkin outlines three initiatives by World Forum on Communication and Information to address the situation: the creation of a world network to connect the media present at the forum; the organisation of a virtual global community of journalists; and the creation of a virtual university for journalists. One of the challenges presented by the WSF is to forge another form of communication which can give rise to another form of participation. Without this, the objective of creating \'\'another possible world\'\' will never be more than a wish planted in the imaginations of millions and millions of people.

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: New Reference Point for Globalisation Debate

The first-ever World Social Forum held in this southern Brazilian city will forever serve as the point of reference in the ongoing debate about the globalisation process.

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: For the Globalisation of Solidarity

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and city governments from Europe and Latin America called for greater coordination between local authorities and civil society to prevent marginalisation and social exclusion.

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: Communication, Civil Society’s Standing Debt

Civil society has a pending debt: an in-depth debate about communication, agree specialists in the sector participating in the World Social Forum, underway in this southern Brazilian city.

PARAGUAY-POLITICS: Stench of Corruption Lingers Around Wasmosy

A relaxed President Juan Carlos Wasmosy, who hosted a weekend summit of the Rio Group of nations, dismissed charges of corruption against his government as showing simply there was " true freedom of the press in my country."

RIO GROUP: The Only Latin American Forum for Political Dialogue

The Rio Group demonstrated at its 11th summit that it is still Latin America's only forum for political dialogue, which offers a space for the discussion of unresolved bilateral and multilateral issues.

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