Thursday, March 1, 2007

Free Press Witholding Local Contacts

In December, FreePress hosted an FCC hearing in Nashville at Belmont University at which almost two hundred people spoke out against the FCC. Many of these people were also local and regional media activists who gave their names and contact information to FreePress. Then, in January, FreePress hosted a 'reform the media' conference in Memphis. At this conference FreePress hosted a southeast caucus at which time three groups of Tennesseans, representing some 150 people gathered to strategize on issues related to media reform and media justice issues. Again, a contact form was passed around and people gave their contact information.

Now, FreePress is refusing to share that contact information with the Independent Media Center. They have said they have a strict no release policy for contact information and have instead invited us to join their listserv if we want to speak to each other.

FreePress is adopting the corporatist policies of the very corporations they claim to be fighting. Many people in this community have been struggling in isolation for years on the same issues, often without knowing who was in their community.

Media Reform/Media Justice requires openness and accountability, traits which FreePress seems to have abandoned.

There is discussion in the community of having a community dialogue about media justice issues, but there is a danger that this process will undergo the same process it has gone through in the past. So far, we have had three regional gatherings in Tennessee in the past six weeks where we sit around and listened to talking heads tell us about media reform and then we are denied the means to communicate with ourselves. There is a serious danger of this same pattern repeating itself in the coming months here in Tennessee, with FreePress choosing to only release the local contact information to one individual who will adopt the same policies and control the dialogue in the same fashion.

The only true path to media reform is for us to be able to openly communicate with each other and collectively decide on paths to media justice. What will likely happen instead, unless we demand the right to speak openly amongst ourselves, is that the process will be funneled into the hands of one person and one organization who will decide for themselves what media reform means in middle tennessee and how it is going to happen.

I urge you to write to Amanda Ballantyne at Free Press at aballantyne@freepress.net and demand that all invdividuals and organizations involved in media justice issues receive access to information about their community. In addition, please do not allow one local organization or one individual to solely decide what media justice will mean here in our community. If you see someone organizing an event, or claiming to represent the movement, question that process and see if it is really bringing everyone to the table.

Chris Lugo
Tennessee Indymedia

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