By ABONG, member of Forus in Brasil.
Brazil, like most of the world's democracies, is experiencing severe problems with regards to a reduction in the number of civic spaces, attacks on fundamental rights and the advance of conservatism. This situation was consolidated in the country with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right wing politician with links to military personnel who defend the military dictatorship that was imposed on Brazil between 1964 and 1989.
One of the determining factors of the outcome of the 2018 election was the strength of self-managed communication groups (mainly through WhatsApp), which circulated fake news and articles containing disinformation very efficiently throughout Brazil. The framework for human rights was attacked several times and we lost control of the narrative because we were not organized on networks and we could not respond to what was being disseminated.
A coordinated response from an organized civil society in the field of communication, addressing communicators from organizations, collectives and other alternative means of communication and so on, which could not only disseminate messages defending us from attacks, but also guide the political and social discussions in Brazil, was needed.
The Cardume network - Communicators defending rights - was already an existing group and we understood that it would be an important tool in helping us to reach this objective, but in order to coordinate with each other more efficiently, we needed to have a plan of action which we could develop as a group, and we saw this opportunity at the beginning of 2019. In the early days of Bolsonaro's government, CSOs were threatened several times with censorship, and this was the starting point for our mobilization: how could we create mechanisms to defend the actions of civil society organizations?
With that very same threat, we saw the second factor that would determine the success of our actions: How could we find a common ground within the group, which would generate interest in engaging with the network. The third important factor for our success was to attract outlets and organizations with a lot of visibility at a national level to Cardume, which would thus give more grandiosity to our movement.
We made a list of organizations/outlets that we would like to have in Cardume and spoke directly with their communicators about participating in the network. We did this by illustrating the importance of coordinating our efforts to tackle imminent threats. Since then, members have taken it upon themselves to invite more organizations to join this network, and thus expanding their presence in Brazil and in the areas where CSOs operate.
With these 3 strategies now established (common goal, practical activities and a well-developed network), we created tools to communicate and express ourselves as a group. In addition to WhatsApp groups, face to face, virtual and individual meetings were held to ensure that Cardume was constantly active until we eventually launched the #SomosTodosONG (#WeAreAllNGO) campaign, which aimed to defend and highlight our actions. Between October and December 2019, the campaign produced 28 articles, dozens of posts on social media, special reports through media outlets, as well as 3 videos, such as this one about launching/mobilization (available here with English and French subtitles):