Maria_Pia_Matta_0Chilean María Pía Matta, President of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) is included in the same list as the Mapuche, Mireya Manquepillán Huanquil, director of community radio Kimche Mapu.

With exemplary courage, these “100 Heroes” fight or dedicate their work to promote freedom under the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”. The “100 heroes” put their ideals “to serve the common good”, and therefore serve as an example.

María Pía Matta has extensive experience in the promotion and defense of freedom of expression in Chile, Latin America and the world. As President of AMARC, she helped to raise the social role of community radio and promote the full exercise of freedom of expression by citizens. She led the first visit of observation radios and Mapuche media, which led to the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Chile, the recognizing of the role of radio in communication, and the decriminalization of community radio broadcasting without a license. This list by RWB also presents a portrait of Mireya Manquepillán Huanquil, chosen for her work at radio Kimche Mapu in the town of Lanco.

The list of RWB is a recognition and tribute not only to the 100 appointees, famous or unknown, but to all journalists, professional or not, who contribute daily to enlighten the world and consider reality in all its forms. This initiative aims to demonstrate the struggle to defend and promote freedom of information through a necessary support to victims of violence, but also to build role models that can serve as a reference.

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María Pía Matta, President of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), was proclaimed in May as one of the 100 Information Heroes (#infoheroes), a list created by Reporters Without Borders (RWB). This nomination is in recognition of her career in the defense of the right to communicate, her commitment to the radio and television channels and her community work of inspection on the situation of freedom of expression in areas of conflict in Latin America. Sandra Herrera of AMARC ALC and Miriam Meda of AMARC Europe interviewed her.

How did you feel about to this recognition of “information heroine” which Reporters Without Borders dedicated to you? Knowing that, with it, you are a reference of communication for many people and journalists?

I received the nomination of RWB with gratitude and emotion; because it is recognition of the collective work that we have done from AMARC to install the right to information and freedom of expression as a social rights.

To what new challenges will you commit because of this distinction? 

I feel, more than ever, a great commitment to the autonomy of the radio movement, as a collective work. Basically we have to give more essence to the community communication as the core of the development of the radios and community media. That means, we should never leave the contents production as the axis of our communication practice, which by the way goes hand in hand with a non-hierarchical integral management, and that puts at stake always the hierarchical one.

Today the movement of radios in Latin America and the Caribbean has taken important steps, but the contents production remains often aside because the groups and individuals that define the radios are fighting for survival and for their legality. 

What are the motivations that lead a person to dedicate her life to community media? 

The motivations are numerous, but for me, I think the main thing is that I lived the loss of democracy in 1973 and I experienced the horror of the Pinochet dictatorship. This experience makes me profoundly committed to democracy.

Democracy as the common good, a democracy that complies with its procedures, where the representation is as important as participation, all those factors make for higher quality democracy. 

Democracy must guarantee to all, especially the poorest, access and participation to public speech and public debate, which is what strengthens democracy. So, I think that voluntary communication projects are excellent tools for those sectors that do not participate in the public debate, because they do not have access due to they do not have the tools to do so. Finally I have to say that these are the popular sectors, the poorest sectors of our society the least involved in the public debate. Then it is as well: quality democracy is equal to high quality public debate where all sectors participate, mainly the sectors traditionally excluded from that discussion.

When did you start working in defending the right to freedom of expression? In comparison to the current situation, what differences did you notice?

I have worked in Radio Tierra since 1992. I do not do that anymore since October of 2013. I began my work, first in AMARC Chile in 2002 and then in AMARC ALC in 2003.

Since 2002, together with colleagues like Ernesto Lamas, Taís Ladeira, Gabriela Ayzanoa, Argentina Olivas, Gustavo Gómez, Paula Castello , Alejandro Linares, Almeida Calleja, Carlos Rivadeneyra, Carlos Casares, João Malerba, Perla Wilson, Carlos Aparicio, Maru Chávez and Ximena Tordini, we dedicate ourselves to the refunding of AMARC ALC. 

There are many differences, there has been significant legislative progress, but there is also still a lack on this field. We must move ahead with the independence of the regulatory authorities and the governments have to understand that we are an autonomous movement. Our commitment is dedicated to democracy. I insist that it is now more important than ever to strengthen the course of community communication, we cannot stay only in the lobby and in the legislative aspects, which of course are fundamental, but we have to take the movement through the production of contents and a community communication practice.