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On World Press Freedom Day, AMARC asserts communication rights of disaster-hit communities

(AMARC/IFEX) - Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 3, 2010 - On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day (3 May) AMARC, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, calls on governments and international agencies to respect the communication rights of communities struck by disaster and to recognise the vital role of community media in disaster response and reconstruction.

In the Haiti earthquake of 12 January 2010, community media support organisations in Port-au-Prince suffered complete destruction of their facilities. Community radio stations were directly affected in 12 disaster-stricken communities while in other parts of the country, community broadcasters provided vital information on missing persons and the needs of displaced people.

In the Chile earthquake of 27 February 2010, 15 community radio stations suffered serious damage, 10 of which lost their entire buildings. At least 40 others were directly affected but were quickly back on the air ensuring access to information, providing psychological support and enabling people to air their concerns about the pace and progress of disaster response and humanitarian relief.

AMARC believes greater attention needs to be given to respect for communication rights in humanitarian disaster response and reconstruction. It is not sufficient to focus on informational messages to disaster hit communities. The first responders are people in the communities themselves who need communication tools to organise local relief. The most vulnerable people - women, children, the elderly and the disabled - are often the last to be heard. Civil society organisations need to have a voice and be involved in the process of reconstruction. International agencies and governments must do more to demonstrate transparency and accountability.

AMARC marked World Press Freedom Day in Haiti with the signing of an accord with the Haitian community media support organisation SAKS (Sosyete Animasyon Komunikasyon Sosyal) for a joint programme of work on humanitarian communication, reconstruction and community media development. The programme, which will run initially for a period of six months, is supported by the Open Society Institute, Free Voice, Diakonie, Development and Peace, UNESCO, International Media Support, the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Japan Platform, among others. It builds on an international solidarity response to the Haiti emergency from community media activists and organisations including Amisnet, ALER, Radio Santa Maria, BHN Communications, Austin Airwaves, WACC and AMARC's regional offices in Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific.

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