Cristina Vélez Vieira

Lee en español

Over the past few weeks we have been immersed in interviews to identify how different groups are strengthening, thinking and re-thinking the information ecosystem in Latin America (read more about the project here). 

As we talk to journalists, civil society organisations and academics from 13 countries in the region, it has become clear to us that the information ecosystem is complex and composed of several interconnected biomes with internal dynamics, in both analog and digital spaces

Many people have told us that not only are these biomes composed of information, content and narratives produced and shared by different actors – at the same time, they are also the places where people are trying to build a sense of meaning, legitimacy and identity. In our conversations, practitioners have often pointed to information disorder as a symptom of a bigger issue. This echoes the notion shared by journalist Jeff Jarvis that the “crisis in democracy is not just about information“, but rather about a crisis in belonging.” 

Practitioners we have talked to have suggested that the way out of the current state might lie then, in enraizar (working from the roots); in other words, localising information, and linking it to community contexts – a point also made by journalists Nina Weingrill and Izabela Moi who, since the pandemic, have been looking into the urgency of investing in local information ecosystems.

Along these lines, the Nieman Lab, a centre specialised in analysing the role of journalism in society, predicts that in 2024 newsrooms will start working more closely with grassroots organisations and activists, because beyond the “news industry” the priority will be to rebuild something broader: civic dialogue.

In our mapping we have already found some pioneering examples and we see that this trend has already started to build in Latin America. 


Creating community at uncertain junctures is starting to become a priority for both media and civil society groups. To give an example, LatFem, an Argentine feminist media outlet, helped women come together to develop grassroots communication campaigns in their neighbourhoods during the recent election. They used a mix of postering, stencilling, street painting, along with the creation of moderated conversation groups on Whatsapp, which they used to address doubts about the elections and where they worked to rebuild confidence in the electoral system and encourage women to vote. 

There is also VitaActiva, a support line for journalists, activists and defenders who, as part of their work, have faced digital violence. As its director Nicole Martin told us, if these types of situations are not addressed in time, they end up impacting the overall health, motivation, routines and work of people who are key for the information ecosystem in the region. This is a problem that continues to grow in the region; according to a recent report, 83% of women editors who write about gender issues are affected by this type of violence.

Some initiatives have made progress in generating a sense of belonging and connecting this to community and place. For example, Rede Cidadã InfoAmazônia has been strengthening the connection between community communicators and independent media to amplify and make visible stories of climate resilience.

 “The relationship between these organisations and their territories is extremely important for information to circulate. They are the ones who know best the appropriate formats to organise, produce and distribute content,” explains Débora Menezes, who was the network’s coordinator.

Another thing that we have identified in our mapping is that in the same country, spaces of information saturation can coexist with so-called “information deserts”.

In the Caribbean, as well as in parts of Latin America, we found that partisan political coverage is everywhere. We were also told that, while “people eat breakfast, lunch and dinner [hearing about] what the president does [in news sources]”, there are very few reporters working on climate change issues. Stories about the climate are also only present in 2% of the news published at the regional level, according to a study by Libélula and others.

One interviewee described how there is not enough coverage about  coastal erosion in their country, Puerto Rico, including how people are being affected and how the government is working to modulate its impact. It is in many of these contexts that hyperlocal journalism is coming up with answers – for example, La Isla Oeste in Puerto Rico, Malayerba in El Salvador and La Región in Bolivia.

Other projects are betting on listening more attentively and trying new strategies to “get to where the people are”. With this motivation, several solutions or participatory journalism projects have emerged in the region. Their idea is to overcome “one-way communication” and reach people with stories and information without assuming that “we already know what they need”. 

For example, El Otro País in Paraguay is dedicated to generating community around citizen concerns in the interior of the country, which are very different from those in the capital Asunción. Desirée Esquivel, its founder, convenes Cultural Meriendas, where people sit down, debate and look for collective solutions to local problems, which are then covered by the editorial office. This was the case in the context of the abrupt closure of the Caacupé – Candia – Atyrá road, which led thousands of residents to protest because they had to detour two kilometres to cross half a block.

We’ve been seeing efforts to strengthen the “citizen dialogue” by promoting discussion spaces to bring “strangers with strangers”. The idea is to build “common meaning” from the local level.

In Guatemala, Instituto 25a does this in the context of the capital with its project Avenida Comunidad, while Ojo con mi Pisto does it in rural areas. This journalistic medium builds dialogues around how municipal budgets are being invested in rural areas and trains community communicators in how to investigate corruption.

Finally, in Colombia there is Mutante and its project Opuestos Dispuestos, which has generated conversations between the Venezuelan migrant population and their neighbours about the forms of discrimination they are experiencing in accessing housing.


At the same time, we’ve been hearing a lot about how these new initiatives need more than will, vision and ‘good vibes’ to work. Practitioners from all over the region have been pointing out that it is also necessary to think about how to strengthen infrastructures. There is a long-standing material reality: lack of public investment, appropriation limitations and Internet outages in the region.

On top of that, many have described digital spaces as increasingly fragmented and privatised. As we have heard in recent weeks from several expert voices, platforms are increasingly less transparent and there is less open data for civil society and researchers to investigate disinformation or content recommendation systems that generate polarisation or strengthen stereotypes.

In addition, interviewees have highlighted  the structural and long-standing forms of racial, gender and socioeconomic discrimination that affect access to technology and communication channels in the region.

In Bolivia, for instance, there are three official languages in addition to Spanish, but there is limited availability of media or information sources in indigenous languages, even though about 40% of the country’s population is of indigenous origin.

In Colombia, the organisation Ilex told us that in the case of the Colombian Pacific, legal information, including that related to the consolidation of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, does not reach black populations because the State does not contextualise or distribute it through the channels that these communities consult.


Identifying these gaps, we would like to open a space in our third community call to talk about: What kinds of infrastructures do we need to collectively create a better flow of creation, distribution and reception of information in Latin America? 

We especially invite organisations that are working to improve the information ecosystem from the point of view of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities to join the call! We’d love to hear about: 

  • How are you or the communities you’re working with facing these material, funding, connectivity and accessibility limitations in their territories?  
  • What kind of support do you or the communities you’re working with need in terms of public policies, partnerships, data and technology?  (The Engine Room is offering tech and data support to organisations).
  • And finally, how can we think about these problems not as ‘individual challenges’, but as collective ones? 

We are sure that this conversation will help us to further root the questions we have about information ecosystems in Latin America and to see other ways of building health and re-appropriation in these spaces.

Our community call will take place on March 5, 2024. Interested organisations, journalists and activists are welcome and can register here to join. Note: This event will be held in Spanish.


If you are unable to attend, but would still like to learn more about this project and tell us about your perspectives and initiatives on this issue, please contact

Photo by Heather Suggitt on Unsplash