Written by: Prativa Chetri of AMARC Asia Pacific
Maria Pia Matta, President of World Association of Community Radio Broadcast (AMARC) in her welcome remarks at the Forum on Communication for Development & Community Media for Family Farming (FCCM) taking place at the FAO headquarters in Rome today spoke about the importance of community radio which is essential for the global debate on rural development. She stressed that ‘communication is a right and a necessity in this day and age’ where communication has become ‘a place where social relations can happen’.
Communication therefore aids in ‘development and is a place for interchanging of ideas’ as it leads to ‘intercultural exchange and self-determination’. ‘Without communication, millions of people are excluded from the development processes’ hence there is a need for fostering greater communication for development initiatives.
One great communication tool is the community radio that is a proven effective means of an inexpensive and effective way of communication. Community radio is a medium that gives voice to the voiceless and facilitates their participation in development initiatives. Without access to voice, poor people are unable to participate in debate or to express their opinions on public policies that affect them directly.Community radio with its wide reach is one of the most effective vehicles for addressing a range of issues from a local context. The local community radio can help to get the message and information across in a language and culture best suited for the audience. Community radio can help localise the information and message.
Given the scope of community radio for rural development, AMARC advocates for the right of the people to communicate at local, national, regional and global levels. Maria Pia said that ‘community media is the construction of a feeling of society that gives form to people's demands’ in other words community media puts the means of communication at the hands of the people and helps mobilize them for their development. Community media can help to create awareness, raise social consciousness and, above all, be a voice for the voiceless.
Given the importance of community media there is a need for ‘more public policies on transparency of media’ and freedom of expression. Lack of enabling policies is hindering the proliferation of community media which is impacting the development goals especially in developing countries where it is most needed.
Maria Pia thanked FAO in collaborating with AMARC on this important communication for development initiative to ensure that smallholders and family farmers attain sustainable livelihoods.