Asian indigenous peoples, media participate in the Indigenous Voices in Asia (IVA) Skills Sharing Workshop

Quezon City, Philippines–Indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples rights activists and media practitioners from five countries in Asia gather in Manila to share their skills and experiences in engaging with the media on indigenous peoples’ issues in the region. The Skills Sharing and Exchange Workshop is held in the University Hotel of the University of the Philippines Diliman from January 22-23.

“Indigenous peoples across countries face the same problem of being under-reported or misrepresented in media. These are some of the reasons why we are raising the capacities and knowledge of the media and indigenous peoples to more effectively tell the stories of indigenous communities. And also enjoin other media practitioners to help give a voice to indigenous peoples,” Ronnie Clarion of Radyo ni Juan said. Radyo ni Juan, or Juan Radio, is a radio station based in Davao City.

The Skills Sharing and Exchange Workshop is part of the Indigenous Voices in Asia (IVA) project lead by Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), sponsored by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and Asia Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP.)

Dipta Chakma, regional project coordinator of IVA, said that the aim of the program is to increase the participation of indigenous peoples in democratic and political spaces in the promotion and protections of their rights as a people. “The rights of indigenous peoples to set up their own media in their own languages is enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. This is the indigenous peoples and the media ending the long suppression of our voices from the hills and the mountainsides,” Chakma added.

Piya Macliing Malayao, a Bontoc-Igorot and spokesperson of national indigenous peoples organization in the Philippines Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said that in the Philippines, the pressing developments on indigenous peoples rights and their situations are rarely heard in mainstream media. “This Skills Sharing and Exchange is a step towards getting the indigenous peoples issues propagated to a wider audience. In providing indigenous peoples and media spaces to share their experiences, their skills, and their technologies, participants from the Philippines and other countries enrich their capabilities to get our stories out there. It is important for marginalized sectors to make their issues heard” Malayao further shared.

Participants came from Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, Thailand and northern and southern Philippines.

Media freedom is another matter that the indigenous peoples contend with, according to Rim Sarem from Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association. “Media in Cambodia is not completely free. Private individuals and organizations could not say anything that is critical of the government. You may be imprisoned because of vocal criticism of the government, ” Sarem shared. “Media is under control of the ruling party.”

Mona Sihombing, from Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), an indigenous people’s federation in Indonesia, says that there are challenges in covering and reporting indigenous issues in their Indonesia. “Indigenous issues are rarely covered by mainstream media, much less published or broadcasted. Indigenous peoples in Indonesia must also rely on their own capacities and ways to get the indigenous voices heard,” Sihombing said.

Teaching the ropes

KODAO productions, a multimedia group based in the Philippines, provided training in basic video production and community radio to the workshop participants. KODAO refers to community radio as the ‘people’s radio,’ radios that community members own and identify with.

“As Kodao defines people’s radio, it is broadcasting from the point of view and standpoint of the people with the end view of telling their stories, stories that matter to them for social transformation and justice.  By people, we mean the regular folks, the marginalized, the receivers who are taken for granted and not taken seriously enough,” Raymund Villanueva, a director of KODAO said.

KODAO productions produce video documentaries on social issues in the Philippines such as environmental destruction, human rights, civil liberties, and other issues of marginalized sectors, such as the indigenous peoples.

The group also travelled to Sagada, Mt. Province to visit Radyo Sagada, the first community radio of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, to learn from the experiences of the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera province.

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