Pía Figueroa participated in the European Humanist Forum, recently held in Madrid, as a speaker in the “Independent journalism and social activism” working group. Pía is Co-director of Pressenza International Press Agency, dedicated to news about peace and nonviolence. She is a humanist with a long career and the author of several monographs and books.
What is your impression of the European Humanist Forum?
I have the impression, between yesterday and today, that I am living in a tremendously paradoxical time. Yesterday we were talking about the number of times we have been very close to a nuclear detonation, much closer than at any other time. On the other hand, in the human rights area, Antonio Carvallo talked about the number of English people who have died in recent years because they have been unable to obtain timely medical care. If this happens in England, imagine how many there are in Africa!
On the one hand, there are great risks and the population doesn’t have access to basic needs, on the other, enormous movements have appeared, which have managed to get many people participating, seeking the construction of a more just and supportive society.
In relation to the independent media, what do you think their role should be in social transformation?
The same paradox that we were talking about occurs in the media. On the one hand, we are seeing information that is absolutely manipulated by big business, by economic interests with the famous fake news, which is nothing more than media manipulation, and on the other hand, since 2010 – 2011 there has been a growing development of new media. Every small town has its own media, its own community radio, its own website, its own electronic media, its own streaming channel, millions of authors have their own blog. These are media that are not manipulated by big business and yet there are a great many social activists and friends, fellow travellers, sometimes even of the same ideology, who aspire to be covered by traditional media and not by the new independent media.
I have had many conversations with my activist friends and they all aspire to be covered by the world’s most pro-system television channel and not by the new news agencies. The press officers of the most revolutionary leaders send their press releases to CNN, but not to the independent media. It’s a paradox; we don’t believe in those media, however, our prestige is placed there. We have built new media that we call alternative because we treat information in different ways, we are faithful, we do not modify a comma, and yet we do not have the credibility of the media that manipulate all the information and do not give space to what journalists are generating in the grassroots.
In this contradiction we move daily, with respect to information. Until we change the way we believe, until we stop believing in the system in our heads, we are supporting it.
Now that Pressenza is 10 years old, I started to write to some of my best, life-long humanist friends, asking them: Are you subscribed to Pressenza? Do you receive our news daily? They said to me, “Oh! No, I support it financially, but reading it! Why should I, if you write what I already think?
Not so! We report on social movements, we are the voice of the new, we publish the photos that no one else publishes, we give birth to the dreams of another model of society. It isn’t enough for us to be friends. Subscribe! Subscribe!
It’s very difficult to be a news agency for peace and nonviolence in such a violent world. We like drama, we like that touch of permanent violence that we see in the media. What is the change we aspire to? We aspire to disbelieve, to generate another story, to really like nonviolent news, news that treats information in a different way, that cultural change will take place when movements and the media are able to communicate that there is another way of living.
For me, this is the construction of this era, the convergence of new media with new social movements.
What can we do immediately?
On what to do immediately, it seems to me that all of us here are already working together, we are partners in the same struggles. Pressenza has a network of almost 400 associated media and movements and a year ago, in Barcelona, we held a conference in which we agreed to do what would be called a “media box”, a kind of place where any movement could leave information and any media could take information, a sort of agency of agencies.
My proposal is to take up again the idea of making the new agencies agency, a kind of collaborative media between all the independent media. It is about joining forces in the face of a paradoxical moment in which everything old is more present than before, with its enormous violence and still the new is trying to emerge without us yet believing in it enough .