Despite all logistical problems that were faced, particularly the lack of simultaneous translation which severely crippled programmed activities and further understanding of press conferences, the 2011 forum in Dakar can be considered a great advance when it comes to debating, communicating, the successful exchange of ideas and the importance to democratize it. That was without a doubt highly impelled by alternative medias.
At least two events were able to agglutinate a larger portion of organizations occupied or preoccupied with communication : The Alternative Medias Seminar, in the three periods predating the 8th, and the Convergence to Action Assembly, held in the morning of the 11th under the provocative theme : “Which kind of communication is possible for another world ?”. These events mobilized common propositions and concerns embodied in the “Dakar Declaration : The right to inform and be informed”, and in the call for a II Free Media World Forum for 2012, along the same lines as the I FMWF held in Belém do Pará, Brazil, in 2009.
Another part of this process was the Panel during the afternoon of the 8th, which tried to politicize the debate concerning the use of technology in social transformation and was able to count on the presence of sociologist Boaventura de Souza Santos, who’s been defending the valorization of the shared communication process at the WSF. He was emphatic while defending that the WSF International Counsel should shoulder clear commitments with these proposals, including mobilizing resources to reach those who are not yet introduced. Impact and oppression of Wikileaks, taking over of social media against authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and the and other events in North Africa illustrate the panel with enough examples as to why the WSF communication should be prioritized.
Activities punctuating the relationship between communication and social movements and the struggle of community radio stations in Africa were also held.
Looking at communication as political strategy and not mere WSF logistic has been one of the alternative medias demands of the International Councill. They propose :
That the WSF call for a worldwide debate on the theme, which now can be held under the methodological seminar format, as proposed by the CI 2010 Methodology Commission, in Mexico ;
That the concept of shared communication be assumed and spread as WSF practice, something that now starts being spread through their newsletter, but still needs to do the same in all medias related to the WSF, educating by example so that its collective interests contents produced are copyright free in process.
This perspective was reinforced in the final Communication Assembly’s declaration, which had about 60 organizations from different countries and continents present.
The idea is that the II WFMF would be held in Rio de Janeiro, in the eve of activities related to those of Rio+10. The event, self invoked by alternative medias, does not take away the right of the WSF, through its International Counsel, to assume the responsibility of summoning and promoting it as one of their international events, a Seminar or a Communication Themed World Social Forum.
Sociability in Alternative Media Settings
Alternative media gained appropriate space for their work at the WSF, despite the need for internet to meet the demand. The work of the African Communication Committee alongside the WSF logistic, and the engagement in respecting recommendations made during the International Communication Commission meeting, at the November International Counsel, assured the space of the UCAD II Library arranged installations for the cohabiting between medias.
The presence of international facilitators days prior to the WSF contributed to the previous familiarization of space of the alternative medias as well as TV Forums, as the setting would also end up being utilized for a series of press conferences organized by the Communication Commission.
The low capacity for internet connection, even though it undermined the work, was perceived by those occupying the surroundings as part of the problems with the infrastructure faced by the WSF event, and cannot be evaluated separately.
There was reasonable interaction with communicators from other countries other than Senegal, including those that, even though were acting within an external Convergence Center put together by the IMC Africa, mobilized to interact with other projects. There was also a good use of the settings for the preparation of ensemble activities, like the opening march, a general Communication Commission meeting, one other Convergence Assembly. Even practical workshops, stencil improvised video, etc. Moments like these provided opportunities of acquaintanceship, a factor that has, since previous forums, contributed to the ingression and constancy of communicators/independents in communication processes linked to the thematic universe of the WSF.
In these settings the contact between visiting alternative media with communicators and Senegalese students could have been greater. Few local journalists who made the effort to contact were the exception. There were few opportunities to create long lasting, more permanent bonds and even to share practices and notions, although we believe that in the African Media ambit, this process was given more positively, by means of the initiatives that tried to insert these youngsters in spaces of dialog about the WSF communication. (this account may be better contemplated with African media reports)
The covering of the WSF by alternative media
The themes covered at the WSF by alternative media reflected issues that had mobilized this edition the most. To start, the concomitant period of uprising and popular victory in the North of Africa. What unfolded in Egypt was quickly and closely followed during the WSF and interfered with the agenda, up until Mubarak’s fall. Tunisia was linked to the movement of regional rebellion, reinforced by social networks. The Moroccan presence, which in one hand brought a more intense connection to the regional processes to the WSF, also became alternative medias headlines but for another reason : the presence of a group supporting the current Moroccan politics when it comes to the Sahara, and the opposition to the Saharans participating in the WSF. A group of Saharan women became the first target of these strange participants aggressions, accused in a press conference held by their victims.
Another theme of great interest was the presence of the African Diaspora in the Gorée Island. With the release of the Immigrants World Letter prior to the WSF, it was possible for a great number of participants of the Forum to go and visit the island with certain tranquility and provide feedback. For Brazilian communicators, the members of Ciranda, while visiting the House of Slaves, a human being commercial trading post dating back to the time of slavery, it was the single most powerful event during this preparative process.
Communication itself was a theme of interest. Not only for being related to the recent or simultaneous to the WSF political developments, but for presenting a solid debate agenda, which involved efforts in direct transmission through the web.
Actions that promoted their own communication also had easier access to the spaces used by alternative medias, such as blogs, social networks and material reproduced in lists. Via Campesina was an example of that, when it was able to broadcast clearly its agenda at the WSF, and the Immigrants World Letter itself, which has been previously broadcasting its construction process, using their own website and releases.
The beginning of the WSF is traditionally the period of highest notoriety because of the opening march, but the final days of the WSF, with its assemblies, rendered guidelines of communications that continue to be subsidized by reports, declarations and other documents, like the report that the Women’s March or the Support Letter to the Women of the World.
The conversion to action assemblies convoked in Dakar, generated the feeling that the WSF can indeed be more than a meeting place, but also an international generator of collective proposals, actions and combined commitments, as long as the process of summoning is given by conversions and auto conducted measures.
The Social Movement Assembly gathered around 2500 people, according organizers, to build an agenda of common mobilizations and fight commitments. There was also a convergence in solidarity towards Palestine, reinforcing the BDS campaign, Diaspora convergence in search for more light being shed over historic and cultural relations between Africa and the rest of the globe, and also convergences that mobilized different strategies in order to pressure the Rio+20.
38 Assemblies were summoned and should build a book of declarations and cry outs from the WSF. Communications will make the book, but will also be an important part of its content.
Coverage and shared broadcasting
Ciranda developed its job according to the 12 axles of the WSF, transformed in editorials and part of them translated in four languages. It also broadcasted videos, linked primarily to WSFTV as well as image galleries. 48 editorial spaces separated by language/axle, plus multimedia.
In order to organize the coverage, Ciranda did previous work in Brazil alongside a few regional initiatives that had already been a part of building its shared broadcasting for the WSF. People from Belém, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and São Paulo were a part of it. Material published during the WSF was sent to a sort of ‘translation grid’ that gathered volunteers from Babels and collaborators of Ciranda, contributing to a multilingual coverage. This work was monitored by a collaborator in London, in partnership with Babels, and by a group yet in the process of formation at Ciranda.
We evaluate as positive the diversity of non-commercial coverage projects of the WSF. Those who did collaborate, generally collaborating for themselves, keeping their pieces featured in sites like Ejoussour, Carta Maior, IPS/TerraViva, Flamme D’Afrique/Panos, Amarc etc. The option of the WSF Dakar site to act through RSS (site indexing) also contributed to put to good use this production.
A shared bulletin, with links to these several medias was proposed as a way of uniting these broadcasts. Once handed out via official WSF newsletter, it is of crucial importance that said bulletin be transmitted and shared with all kinds of media connected to the WSF, as a way of spreading the information with the body of organizations that were a part of the WSF and their contact networks, not to mention maximizing the possibilities of global articulation after the end of the Dakar edition.