Nine Latin American countries will promote regional news integration through the creation of the Latin American Union of News Agencies (ULAN).
This organization is comprised of the following Latin American news services: Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN), Notimex (Mexico), Prensa Latina (Cuba), Agencia Pública de Noticias del Ecuador y Suramérica (Andes), Télam (Argentina), Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, Agencia de Información Pública de Paraguay, Agencia Bolivariana de Información (Bolivia) and Agencia de Noticias de Brasil.
The three committees established by the ULAN statute will be headed by Brazil, Cuba and Mexico.
Argentina is in charge of designing the digital portal of the Union - which will feature news, photos and videos - and Cuba will coordinate the training of journalists.
The main goals of the ULAN are "to promote a much stronger voice for our region within a global context" and to encourage exchange and cooperation in the field of communications amongst Southern countries in order to provide a view which represents our own reality.
During a program broadcast by Venezuela's state-run TV station Venezolana de Television (VTV), Sergio Fernández, director of Argentina's Télam and appointed as president of the ULAN for two years, said that "up until now, the flow of information transmitted throughout the world has been dominated by a few."
Fernández stressed that in Latin America just four media groups broadcast over 82% of the news reported in the region. Hence the need to create the ULAN, proposed in October 2010 during the World Congress of News Agencies, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to promote the democratization of communication and to contribute to the regional integration of the Latin American people.
Venezuela - he adds - paved the way with the enactment of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television in December 2004. This Law is an initiative followed by other countries and represents a way of redefining the role of the media.
"Until not so very long ago the mass media, which has enormous political and economic interests, greatly influenced a situation of absolute privilege, the debate of ideas, systematizing society, distorting reality and did not speak about themselves," Fernández says.
Therefore, another major goal of the ULAN is to promote a cultural change for Latin American journalists, to avoid media reports from the Northern countries in order to see what's happening in the region and to understand that "we will have many more points of convergence and closeness to our Latin American brothers and sisters with whom we share identity, culture, history."
Secretary General's Office
Venezuela, through the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN)(Venezuelan News Agency in English), will hold the ULAN Secretary General's Office by unanimous decision.
The AVN President, Freddy Fernandez, stressed the need to "look at ourselves with our own eyes" in terms of information.
Fernández thinks that just as the commercial media devote their pages to the elite, with the people only appearing in the disaster and crime sections, hegemonic news agencies only report on Latin America when a tragedy occurs or in order to demonize political and social processes.
He added that the history of the region was told with the cameras mounted on the settlers' ships. "It would have been different if they had installed the cameras on the shores of our continent."
New global communication agenda
According to Freddy Portillo, Director of the Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias (Guatemalan News Agency), the creation of the ULAN will make it possible to take on the challenge of establishing a new global communication agenda.
During an interview broadcast by teleSUR, he expressed that "we are trying to give voice to those who have not had it so far (...) The ULAN will try to change the concept of news as the simple reporting of facts. Therefore, we will go deeper into further research so that people can understand their reality and establish a relationship with the transformation. "
Regarding challenges, Portillo added that the first one is to manage an improvement within the circulation of information in Latin America: "The idea is that communication should be more fluid, so that we can cross boundaries and establish a new global communication agenda."
Making reference to the new partnership VTV, Director of Notimex, Sergio Uzeta, said they will show news that acts as a ‘counterweight’ to that handled by large media corporations, reporting what they do not cover and ensuring that the issues facing the region are reported from the perspective of, and including, local and regional agendas.
Uzeta thinks it is necessary to "have a different voice" in order to redefine the problems affecting the countries of the region (...) I think we share the need to diffuse information more effectively and to be able to report on complex issues that refer to a changing reality and the risks that we have in our countries. "
Furthermore, he notes that it is also essential to coordinate efforts wit in the field of communication.
"I think Latin America needs to do it and we can have that voice so that our region's issues are included in the news agenda, not only in our countries but also globally," he affirms.
In his opinion, Mexico is one of the cases in which the mass media, with their particular interests, shows one single reality of issues such as violence by ignoring the causes of this phenomenon.
"We are neighbours of the United States, which is the main consumer of drugs in the world, and the media highlights the violence of drug cartels, but they do not really stress that the United States sells guns to criminals and drug traffickers," adds Uzeta.
The training of journalists will take place in Cuba, Uzeta highlighted, also confirming that training programs in social networking will take place in Mexico as a way of linking reporters to the wider community through resources such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Finally, Uzeta concludes that teleSUR is "showing the other side of the coin," in contrast with the U.S. broadcaster CNN, in cases such as the military aggression against Libya.
Edited for Venezuelanalysis.com by Rachael Boothroyd