What is Prensa Rural?
The “Rural Press Agency” (Agencia Prensa Rural, or APR) is a communication project of several rural social organizations. Currently, the Peasant-Farmer Association of Arauca (ACA, in its Spanish Initials), the Peasant-Farmer Association of Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT), the Peasant-Farmer Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC), Humanitarian Action for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA), and the Sumapaz Agricultural Workers’ Union (SINTRAPAZ) are all involved.
Prensa Rural was born with a mission to break through the censorship imposed by the state and mass media of social organizations in regions of social, political and armed conflict. Our work is with the peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian organizations, accompanying and supporting their organizational processes and telling the world about the reality of the conflict.
Since its founding in 2003, the APR has become a reference for information on, and coverage of, the situation in Colombia. Before Prensa Rural, the only voices heard were those of the humanitarian NGOs weeping and grinding their teeth, and of the Colombian exiles with their radical but far-fetched discourse.
We have succeeded in creating real journalism, moving from opinion and “urgent actions” into news and truthful reporting. In this way, we have shown that the intermediation of institutional press offices is unnecessary. Just a few tools stand between the rural activist and the news-reading public.
As long as the state does not carry out the requests by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for protective measures – which we should supposedly benefit from as a project of peasant-farmer associations like the ACVC and the ACA – the normal development of our labor and the rural communities’ freedom of expression through our media will be hindered.
The APR is media outlet for social organizations in conflict zones. Due to the high level of stigmatization toward these organizations from the Colombian state, we have no guarantee of security for our work. The situation is such that we need international accompaniment to carry out our reporting.
In the northeastern Middle Magdalena region, the Colombian Army uses the mass media – which are at its disposal – to carry out intelligence work on our organizations and their own media outlets. The military sends supposed journalists to activities and press conferences that we organize who turn out to be soldiers. It has also put pressure on the ACVC radio program “The March” (produced by Prensa Rural), going so far as to state publicly that the program is “clandestine and illegal.” In Arauca, the army intimidates the media into not broadcasting information from the social organizations.
We receive frequent threats and insults electronically, which creates a disturbing environment in which to work.
Our general goal is to build a press agency that communicates the political, economic, social and cultural happenings of Colombian society from the perspective of the countryside and the social and community organizations.
Our specific objectives are:
To assist in the building and strengthening of alternative communication projects among the peasant-farmer organizations, promoting and facilitating the production of magazines, newspapers, bulletins, pamphlets, documentaries, community radio, websites and social, political and cultural events.
To broadcast, publish and disseminate the struggles, advances and victories of the peasant-farmer movement, making the peasant farmer a leading participant in our media. This presupposes that maximum dissemination should be given to all content marginalized by the capitalist mass media.
To report objectively on the economic, social and political situation, on human rights, on the armed conflict and peace proposals, on illicit crops and chemical fumigations, and on the true extent of foreign intervention. To offer news that the system hides, manipulates or judges according to its own interests.
To deepen the debate on the agrarian question. To offer contextualized information and analysis that can support and empower the struggle in the countryside.
To report on international peasant-farmer movements, especially in Latin America (including the work of organizations like Vía Campesina and CLOC).
To establish agreements and alliances that allow us to develop different projects as volunteers, interns, researchers and graduate students within APR. At the same time, to facilitate travel throughout Colombia for representatives of social, popular, labor, agrarian, political and cooperative organizations, so that they can gain an understanding of our situation and broadcast it through their own media outlets.
To produce a magazine, documentary videos, photo galleries, and other expressions of our journalism. To organize activities on specific issues related to the situation of the Colombian peasantry.
To guarantee at least a minimum of logistical structure for the Agency that will allow for the successful realization off all its projects.