NINJA MEDIA RELEASES NEW WEBSITE AND EMERGES
AS ONE OF LATIN AMERICA’S STRONGEST ALTERNATIVE MEDIA EXPERIMENTS
By Eduardo Carli de Moraes @ Awestruck Wanderer
To rage against the corporate control of mass media is one thing; another, quite different and much harder to accomplish, is to really invent, build and sustain an alternative. Punk-rock screamer and political provocateur Jello Biafra – former lead singer for The Dead Kennedys – used to say: “Don’t hate the media… become the media!” This message, as I hear it, can be translated something like this: we can’t sit still on the denouncing-and-hating position, we need to struggle to be really constructive in co-building a truly free press.
In Brazil, Ninja Media has followed Jello Biafra’s advice, and in the last couple of years it emerged as a brand-new force in the country’s media landscape. N.I.N.J.A. stands for “Independent Narratives, Journalism & Action” (in Portuguese: Narrativas INdependentes, Jornalismo & Ação). During the whole extremely eventful month of June, in 2013, when hundreds of thousands of Brazilian citizens took to streets to protest a 20 cents increase in public transport fares, Ninja suddenly became hype.
These mass demonstrations were colossal in size and scope; and they inaugurated a new era of mass communication, emerging in Latin America, in which civil society becomes increasingly more capable of organizing simultaneous events, aided by networking technologies and widespread use of social media. Journalism was evolving into new, mutated, cyber-communal incarnations. This new force was already acting in June 2013, as police forces and protesting citizens clashed on the streets, with huge clouds of tear gas enveloping the urban landscape in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, and several other Brazilian capitals.
We suddently discovered that Journalism was beggining to mutate and evolve into radically new, and much more democratic, forms. It’s an ongoing experience, with a vast future ahead of it, open for explorers and adventures in the art of re-creation of mass comunnication. But even mass, corporate media couldn’t ignore the power of this Ninja experiment, suddenly becoming a relevant force in the public sphere as a form of radically new Citizen Journalism: thousands of us were becoming increasingly aware that we don’t need to hate the media, we can become it; we can reclaim the airwaves (they belong to the people); we could make ourselves stronger by mirroring and reverberating our deeds and discourses through the World Wide Web, broadcasting live from the streets, with cellphones and digital cameras who were there both witnessing and acting on the political scene in unprecedented ways.
In this context of popular demonstrations and uprisings, Ninja emerged in Latin America’s media landscape. International sociologists and communications theorists, such as Manuel Castells, as well as foreign newspapers and TV networks, took an interest in this new phenomenon. The volunteer citizen journalists’ collective Ninja “used the recent demonstrations in Brazil’s major cities as a stage for their guerrilla approach to journalism, using smartphones and social media platforms to reach their audience” – reported Rafael Spuldar on indexoncensorship.org.
Ninja’s upsurging popularity shook the traditional media out of its elitist slumber – to the point that “even Globo, Brazil’s media colossus, has started to run ninja footage and follow stories that started with Ninja coverage”, wrote Jonathan Watts on The Guardian, which is by the way one of most renowned English newspapers and who wrote several articles about this “band of volunteer citizen journalists”, the Ninjas of Brazil’s revolution-in-media:
- Brazil’s ninja reporters spread stories from the streets – Band of volunteer citizen journalists are setting the news agenda with their ‘no-cuts, no censorship’ approach (by Jonathan Watts, at The Guardian, August 23, 2013)
- How social media gives new voice to Brazil’s protests – Street protests continue to rock Brazil and, frustrated by mainstream media coverage, a new group of citizen journalists is using digital tools to tell a different side of the story (by Luke Bainbridge, April 27, 2014)
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Back when the outburst of protest happened in June 2013, while the mass media was paralysed in perplexity with the popular uprisings (who were also against them, the corporate media and its machinery of deceit, indoctrination and lies!), Ninja was doing something quite different: it was there, at the eye of the hurricane, at the pulsating heart of the masses on the streets, broadcasting live on the Internet. Ninja unmasked contradictions and struggles as they were unfolding, in all its urgency, intensity and un-predictability. Documenting Brazil’s turmoil in amazing photographs and thrilling written articles, it soon skyrocketed in popularity and reached more than 300.000 followers on Facebook.
Ninja transmitted live from the protests and marches – including the Marijuana Marches and the Slut Walks, the demonstrations by the Landless Movement (MST) and the Homeless Movement (MTST), not to mention the resistance of indigenous populations against the advancement of ecocidal and genocidal agrobusiness and big dams such as Belo Monte… And it broadcasted images with no make-up, ideological dressing, nor censorship from advertisers and share holders.
The fact that Ninja reporters were there as witnesses also quickly transformed the political scenario completely: Ninja emerged also as a power, in Brazilian society, defending basic human rights, including freedom of expression and demonstrations, from abuses by the repressive apparatus. Since Ninja became a new player in Brazil’s power scene, the abuses and fascist practises of the Brazilian Military Police were brought to light and attention. Our police force is mainly an inheritance of the U.S.-backed Military Dictartorship, which ruled our country from 1964 until 1985. Police brutality, its murderous practices (before Ferguson had their martyr in Michael Brown, Rio de Janeiro had its own with Amarildo, murdered by Brazilian police in 2013), this practises of deadly Fascist Police State Measures were no longer easily kept concealed from public knowledge. Police violence against demonstrators, a phenomenon so common in reality as it is uncommon in the Big Media’s TV shows and mainstream magazines, was now being massively revealed.
In São Paulo, in June 2013, when the police went trigger-happy on their rubber bullets, hitting photographer’s eyes and severely hurting journalists (and kick-starting Black Bloc retaliation campaigns against banks and ATMS…), the Police’s abuses couldn’t be concealed. Citizens around the scene had emerged spontaneously as journalists, documentarists, photographers, eye-witnesses. The practise of mass incarceration during protests, for instance, was brought to ridicule: Ninja’s cameras, together with other alternative media and individual smart-phone broadcasters, showed how ridiculous were the cops excuses for emprisonment; many people were being arrested, for instance, because of possession of vinegar!
Our military police has already been declared by the United Nations and by Amnesty International as an institution stained by frequent Human Rights violations – it kills thousands of poor Brazilians each year in our cities slums and favelas, frequently justifying itself behind the pious crusade of The War on Drugs; one of the main issues of our protests are exacly the police force – usually an instituion which acts in highly racist ways, filled with corruption and bribery, with a tendency to constitute militias and mafias for vampiristic greedy profit (just watch Elite Squad, the two awesome films by José Padilha, for a handful of examples of such a fascist behavior…) – this Police Force is also what’s being protested against.
Ninja emerged to give voice to the voiceless, to denounce abuse of power against the powerless, to be an eye-witness to some occurrences in Brazilian History whose newness really demand a new media, capable of making sense of it. Ninja emerges as a collective endeavour at building not only an alternative media, but also an alternative social reality: if you’re looking for authenticity, boldness and a will-to-truthfulness, Ninja is one the Brazilian media’s tenets to be tuned on to.
As the 2014 FIFA’s World Cup began, and the world’s attention turned massively to Brazil – and not only to the soccer arenas, but also to the turmoils and struggles of Brazilian society – Ninja Media released its new website (hosted at Oximity) and now aims to go global. A team of translators – myself included – are already working very eagerly in order to translate Ninja’s articles to English, Spanish, French, German and an ever-growing number of other languages. Please share the news, if you want to help consolidate this emerging project of independent media: Ninja is alive and kicking @ www.midianinja.org and a lot of material is already available for reading in foreign languages. What follows is but a small sample of the multi-language content already published there:
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ONE STEP FURTHER – MORE ABOUT NINJA @ OXIMITY: Ninja was born from a history of more than 15 years of free media production in Brazil, from experiences that go from small magazines to independent blogs of Fora do Eixo. Fora do Eixo is a network based in more than 200 cities in Brazil that develops technologies for culture, communication and content publication. Today NINJA is a decentralized network of people that use new mechanisms of production and distribution of information. It has thousands of members who are using collaboration as a way of life and as a tool to transform society.
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TEAR GAS BOMBS ARE FIRED AT INDIGENOUS IN DEMONSTRATION AGAINST FIFA WOLD CUP (Translated by Marianna Olinger)
Brazil’s capital Brasilia had a ‘warm up’ session of what can happen during FIFA World Cup games in the city this wednesday, May 28th, 2014. According to the ‘Lei Geral da Copa’ (the special legislation passed by Brazilian congress to comply with FIFA requirements during the event), the “enemies of order” – technically any citizens who live up to their right to protest and express their opinions – are prohibited to approach places pre-determined by FIFA, like stadiums and FIFA Fun Fest gatherings. Today around 3000 protesters were repressed with violence by the Brazilian State, acting to protect the FIFA standards in the preparation for the tournament. People in the surroundings described this wednesday’s event as a “spectacle of bombs and military hostility”.
The act “Copa pra quem?” (World Cup for whom?), organized by World Cup Popular Committee, the Homeless Workers’ Movement, and the Indigenous Population Organization (APIB) took over the main bus terminal in Brasilia during the rush hour. The movement promoted a staged trial where FIFA, the Brazilian Government and World Cup sponsors were judged by crimes committed in their quest for guaranteeing FIFA World Cup standards. The staged trial attracted hundreds of passengers and people on their way to work, in addition to indigenous groups from over 100 different ethnic groups from all over the country. Indigenous groups are in vigil in the Capital fighting against the advancement of agribusiness over indigenous land.
“Instead of the Government standing for the Federal Constitution and concluding demarcation of indigenous lands, it is investing billions in an event that lasts for a month, prioritizing big businesses over ancestral peoples’ Rights. For whom does the government works, ultimately?” – questions Lindomar Terena, member of APIB’s coordination.
The crowd marched to the stadium hosting FIFA World Cup in Brasilia, where the tournament trophy was being presented, in a peaceful demonstration. Children, elderly people and pregnant women were among the protesters received by the military police cavalry with tear gas bombs and rubber bullets. There was no space for dialog or negotiation as the police was determined to prevent protesters to go near the stadium.
Earlier this month Amnesty International launched a global campaign “No foul play, Brazil” urging Brazilian authorities to ensure security forces to “play by the rules” and respect everybody’s Rights to freedom of expression during demonstrations expected to take place ahead and during the tournament.
“We are not vandals, as they like to say, we are being ripped off of our land and cannot get near to this coliseum”, indigenous leaders and homeless workers complained referring to the newly built stadium. After the demonstration groups got together at the bus terminal to wrap up activities in the form of an assembly. “Tomorrow is going to be bigger”, chanted the protesters following the violent police reaction.
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Un an qui en paraît dix. Dix années intenses et vives. Les réseaux et la rue ont prouvé leurs liens, en créant un accélérateur de particules qui catalyse rêves et utopies en réalités. Si les luttes ont toujours existé, les conquêtes et les volontés ont gagné de nouvelles configurations. La population brésilienne fait des sauts quantiques de conscience et revient à la politique avec le goût de la participation et de l’interférence directe.
Des millions de Brésiliens sont sortis dans les rues pour les Journées de Juin, il y a un an. Ce fut un début qui ne surgissait pas de nulle part : le processus historique s’est condensé dans la pratique. Les insurrections ont germé ; ont fleuri, se sont accouplé. Le Mondial est alors arrivée. Avec lui, des événements non annoncés ou non autorisés. Pendant que le Brésil regardait vers l’intérieur, le monde observait le pays comme un horizon d’inventions. De la créativité à la volonté, nous avons montré que nous sommes capables de provoquer.
Un cycle se ferme, tant d’autres s’ouvrent. De la victoire carnavalesque des éboueurs (« garis ») aux Indiens venus s’inviter à la capitale. Le conflit ne vit pas seulement de réalités, mais aussi d’imaginaires! Et de mondes qui s’effondrent. Cette année de luttes et de renforcement des mouvements sociaux, initiée en juin 2013 et qui s’achève avec la Coupe du monde, est seulement la fin du début. Un cadre d’urgence politique s’est instauré, indépendant des choix et des processus qui vont suivre. La vague de protestations, à nouveau, fait bouillir dans les rues les principaux thèmes et débats du pays.
Tout cela est en partie le réflexe de 40 millions de personnes sortis de la ligne de l’extrême pauvreté. Mais c’est aussi le résultat de l’épuisement d’une politique institutionnelle qui a prouvé son échec : la crise de représentativité fait paraître moins fou à l’Etat de poursuivre l’extermination de la banlieue, l’isolement politique des Indiens, l’avancement de l’exploitation minière, l’inexistance de politiques de communication, le manque de sensibilité pour les enjeux culturels, la négation de la diversité, la vague conservatrice.
Mais le récit de la résistance doit gagner, une fois de plus. Pour chaque pas en arrière, deux en avant. Pour chaque Juin, de nombreuses victoires. En avant!