The Narco News Bulletin
April 21, 2018 | Issue #67
narconews.com - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America
It's a scorching hot Sunday afternoon in the Vila Autórdromo favela in Rio de Janeiro's west zone. I'm inside the residents association hut where the walls are plastered with big maps and 'Viva A Vila Autódromo' posters and a fan flickers the hot air. Sat on a folding chairs, I hold out a dictaphone as Inalva Mendes Brito, a 50-something schoolteacher with greying curls and diminuitive stature, let's rip.
"Where is it written that everyone has to live in a condominium apartment block? Can't we have free and alternative ways of living? That's what we have here, a free and alternative way of living." She leans forward. "We came here from difficult times. My family was a victim of the dictatorship. We had to move far from the persecution... And here we are again."
For over twenty years now, the authorities have maintained that Vila Autódromo doesn't belong and attempted removal, citing aesthetic damage, environmental damage, environmental risk and, more recently Olympic Park developments as reasons. The community resist and continue to resist, knowing their legal right to the land and creating an alternative upgrading plan for the community at a lower cost than relocation.
However just this week the authorities announced the Parque Carioca replacement housing project that they intend to move Vila Autódromo residents to in early 2014. Agents from the city have been pressuring residents to sign up, handing out fantastical design leaflets depicting a vast gated condominium with ample parking, "gourmet space" and water park. "Water park? Not even the private condos next door have those!" cried some of the shrewd, disbelieving youngsters on seeing the leaflet.
Sitting across from Inalva, looking out as she gestures to the colorful low-rise homes, each unique and built by the residents themselves over decades, often expanded to house a growing family, I wonder why we can't have the freedom of alternative ways of living?
Rio's favelas are not viewed as alternative ways of living. They are viewed and, importantly, reported as scourges on society, with a language of invasion, plague, sprawl and infestation. Type 'Rio favela' into Google news and the reports, both internationally and locally, will be dominated by violent crime and poverty. This is inaccurate and unfair, but most devastating, it is effective in rendering residents powerless and voiceless when the authorities arrive to remove them and demolish their homes so that private developer associates can build their tall, white condominiums. It makes for smoother proceedings.
This is where the School of Authentic Journalism comes in. Reporting for and editing RioOnWatch - a project of Catalytic Communities - in the last year, I have been learning how journalism can empower people, even whole communities. Giving visibility leads to real results: just two weeks ago a member of our team reported from the Largo da Tanque demolition and the media presence doubled the compensation offered in one resident's on-site negotiations.
However as a small team with little-to-no journalism training, I know we can do better to serve the people who make the city function yet whose rights are being systematically denied in this current Great Speculative Project for Rio.
The School of Authentic Journalism offers this chance. It so often seems like the challenges we face and the situations we report on here are so specific to the city, such a specific outcome of a specific history, geography, policy, culture. Connecting with journalists from around the world, learning from experienced teachers and participating in the potent exchange opportunities provided by the School of Authentic Journalism will broaden my understanding and capacity to respond to and effect change in what seems like a very specific situation and struggle. It's an invaluable chance to gather knowledge, strategy and techniques that I can bring back and share with our network of community journalists and leaders.
The stories we tell are important. And so many important stories go untold. Help us train, connect and encourage journalists to seek the truth and tell important, world-changing stories. Please donate to the School of Authentic Journalism now and support journalists and social movements around the world give voice to those like Inalva, who in the face of injustice just want to let rip.
You can make a donation right now, online, by clicking this link:
Or you can send a check to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 1446
Easthampton, MA 01027 USA
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School for Authentic Journalism