In Latin America, many citizens lack a clear understanding of democratic and free-market principles, and strong, charismatic leaders have exploited that knowledge gap. In several countries, notably Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador, the government exerts significant influence over traditional media outlets through direct ownership, intimidation, or even censorship.
The trend is not a positive one for freedom of the press in the region as governments become more creative in finding ways to muzzle the media. And although some have tried to censor the internet, technological and social progress mean that information consumption in Latin America is increasingly linked to the internet and less to traditional media. The importance of cross-border journalism making use of digital platforms to communicate freely is becoming more and more important in this scenario.
From 2004-2012, CIPE worked with the Political Science Institute – Hernán Echavarría Olózaga, based in Bogotá, Colombia, to publish a quarterly Spanish-language print magazine, Perspectiva. Thanks to the rapid expansion of internet service throughout the region, ICP recognized the opportunity to share information with a greater number of people and create an interactive platform for discussion on regional economic and democratic issues. Thus, in June 2012, ICP launched RevistaPerspectiva.com, a digital platform that provides citizens with access to information on politics, economics, and social topics from around the region and beyond. Currently there are no other major web magazines that seek to fill the same niche as RevistaPerspectiva.com.
Since its launch in June 2012, Revistaperspectiva.com has gathered contributions from over 200 experts, researchers, and CIPE partners from around the world — and the number continues to grow. While Perspectiva‘s name recognition in Colombia affords the platform a strong following from that country, the editors have made a concerted effort to feature articles from all parts of the region and publish special week-long content on major regional events such as the Venezuelan elections, United States elections, and Global Entrepreneurship Week. As a result, the audience is broadening to include much of Spanish-speaking Latin America.
The Perspectiva team has worked diligently to provide visitors with the social media tools to interact with the web magazine either through the webpage, its Facebook page (RevistaPerspectiva), or through Twitter (@ReviPerspectiva).
In order to have true freedom of information, citizens must be able to have unlimited access to stories and perspectives via newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the internet. That level of media diversity lends itself to creating a more knowledgeable citizenry. The key is having options. For World Press Freedom Day, it’s important to acknowledge that RevistaPerspectiva.com is giving Spanish speakers one more option.
Brent Ruth is Program Officer for Latin America & the Caribbean at CIPE.