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Local executive undermines preparatory conference on communications reform

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 18 November 2009 - In the countdown to Brazil's National Conference on Communications, the São Paulo executive refused to convene a second Preparatory Conference despite broad support from the municipal legislature and civil society. After rallying together the conference went ahead, but in future ARTICLE 19 calls on all levels and branches of the government, and in particular the executive, to support discussions to introduce much needed reforms in the framework for communications in Brazil.

São Paulo's local executive was officially responsible for convening the municipal conference between 13 and 14 November. Their lack of support not only undermined the need for all stakeholders to work together, but also presented a major challenge to organisers and resulted in serious budget limitations. In the end, the City Council hosted the event and the costs were covered by the participants, parliamentarians and some political parties.

Despite the lack of political will from the local executive, the conference was a success. It brought together more than 300 human rights advocates working on freedom of expression, women's and afro-descendants' rights and the environment, among other issues. Four working groups on Content, Media Outlets and Ownership, Citizenship and Social Control, and Local Policy for Communications in the City of São Paulo provided an opportunity for civil society, the business sector and government to debate and come up with recommendations.

At the Media Outlets and Ownership working group, ARTICLE 19 advocated in favour of the adoption of a national policy and legislation on broadcasting in line with international standards on freedom of expression, including specific mechanisms to promote improved pluralism and diversity in the Brazilian media.

The main recommendations included to promote transparency in licensing procedures for broadcasters, to create an independent national oversight body for broadcasting, and to create a national plan for increasing access to broadband internet. These recommendations, along with proposals from other municipalities, will be considered at the São Paulo State Conference on Communications later this month and eventually at the National Conference in Brasilia. ARTICLE 19 is one of the organisers of the São Paulo State Conference.

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