14 May – Indigenous issues and indigenous people must be ensured a “fair shake” in the mainstream media, experts told a panel discussion held this afternoon at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The panel of indigenous journalists and writers on indigenous topics stressed that commercial media outlets generally only report on indigenous issues in the context of negative news, according to Barbara Pyle, a filmmaker and former Vice President of Environmental Policy for Turner Broadcasting Network, who moderated the event.
The solutions panelists had proposed was, “you have to do it yourself,” she said, noting the emphasis placed by speakers on discovering alternative ways of communicating with the rest of the world.
Speaking near the end of the discussion, which was held in conjunction with the inaugural two-week session of the new UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “Indigenous media need to ensure that the mainstream media hear and understand the points you’re making.” She added, “It’s good to be a voice for indigenous people, and it’s necessary, but it’s also necessary to get indigenous issues into the mainstream of media and communications.”
Established in 2000 by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which is composed of 16 independent experts, is mandated to discuss indigenous issues relating to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. It will meet once a year for 10 working days and submit an annual report to the Council on its activities, including recommendations for approval.
According to the UN, it is estimated that there are at least 5,000 indigenous groups composed of 300 million people living in more than 70 countries on five continents. Growing awareness of the critical situation of indigenous people and their invaluable contribution to the survival of humankind led the UN in 1995 to proclaim the International Decade for the World Indigenous Peoples.