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Global protests breed new media

by BBC Sunday, Jul. 15, 2001 at 4:10 AM

Mainstream media are obsessed by the violence at summits, but we want to explain the background and broaden the agenda Paul O'Connor, Undercurrents

Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 03:53 GMT 04:53 UK

Global protests breed new media

By Darius Bazargan

As governments, protesters and the Italian police gear up for the expected showdown at the forthcoming G-8 summit, the eyes of the world's media are focussing on Genoa.

But for the legions of anti-globalisation demonstrators, organisations like the BBC, CNN and mainstream newspapers are condemned as being part of the "corporate media," with their agendas shaped to serve governments and big business.



Mainstream media are obsessed by the violence at summits, but we want to explain the background and broaden the agenda

Paul O'Connor, Undercurrents


The protesters believe the mainstream press does not give the whole picture, so they have started making their own independent news reports.

Demonstrators equipped with camcorders have become a regular feature at anti-globalisation actions the world over.

Using relatively cheap consumer technology, like digital video cameras, laptop computer editing software and internet web-streaming, a media counter-culture is emerging, which reflects the values of the anti-globalisation direct action movement.

The internet means that protesters too can have world-wide reach.

Protestors demonised

The alternative media really took off following serious disorder at a 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organisation dubbed the "Battle in Seattle".

Despite high levels of violence from both sides, the anti-globalisation movement was demonised by sections of the mainstream media.

Activists learned about the power of the media the hard way - the image is everything when taken out of context.

It was this that really spurred activists to go and create an alternative to the news as broadcast by the big global players.

"Alternative media is about going beyond that point of impact in a riot situation," says Paul O'Connor a founder member of the Oxford-based direct action film collective Undercurrents.

"Mainstream media are obsessed by the violence at summits, but we want to explain the background and broaden the agenda. A lot of people know there's a lot going on out there that the corporate media do not - or will not report," he said.

Call to action

A growing number of webzines and internet-based news sites have also emerged. Their style mixes humour and politics with a call to action.



Don't believe the printed word, go out and take part, learn something new, go and do things for yourselves

Warren Makepeace, SchNEWS


"We haven't got advertisers or directors breathing down our necks. But our site is not impartial," says Warren Makepeace from the webzine SchNEWS.

"It is written by activists, by people who actually go on actions and take part... we say: 'Don't believe the printed word, go out and take part, learn something new, go and do things for yourselves.'

"We suggest books to read, actions to go on, web-sites to go and check out," he said.

Information exchange

As the countdown to the Genoa protests continues, different groups are exchanging information and ideas across the world wide web.

One site called "Body Hammer" details how protesters can make their own protective clothing to thwart attacks by riot policemen.

Although they are badly funded, sometimes disorganised and relatively small, independent journalists have become a feature of the anti-globalisation movement and its trusted source of news.

And if the protests grow, so too will the influence of the alternative media.

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