The World Social Forum (WSF) offers a good example of the difficulties that civil society faces in engaging with the media. The impact and visibility of civil society at the WSF is much weaker than its actual strength, and one of the challenges behind this is that journalists are not prepared to follow multiple, very different and complex issues. Paradoxically, just as history is proving the WSF right in many of its predictions and analyses, the major media, which are key actors in shaping public opinion, are not increasing but in fact sharply decreasing their coverage of it. This silencing treatment is a clear obstacle to the expansion of the WSF, and a cause of real concern for many of its innumerable organisers and participants. This situation was recognised in the Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly of the WSF, launched in Dakar in February 2011. The Declaration concluded that the WSF must undertake “a battle of ideas, in which we cannot move forward unless there is a democratisation of communication.”
Familiarisation with the journalism world, its needs and practices is essential for CSOs, and even more so for those people whose task is to reach out to journalists. As expressed by major media editors themselves at the CIVICUS World Assembly meetings, they are willing to take part in the training process and explain to CSOs the kind of material they need and that later turns into publications. A joint analysis of the best formats and tools would be a precious asset to social movement organisations.
It is also important to identify journalists from different media across the world that have been sensitive to, and are prepared to cover, civil society activities. Organisations should share with each other information about the journalists and media that have showed those characteristics in earlier occasions. Although thousands of journalists from all over the world covered the first editions of the WSF, the movement was unable to make the most out of this, for example, by putting together and sharing a database with their contact details. At the same time, CSOs must also target those journalists and news media that lack information and awareness about civil society actions.
Nobody questions the above tools, but if CSOs used them in a better and combined way to deliver a more focused message, yet while safeguarding individual preferences, the impact would be much higher. There are more and more blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages promoting civil society’s ideas and initiatives; one result is that mainstream media outlets produce many different representations of organised civil society, not all of them fair and balanced. While there is increased use of new media on the part of individual, larger, Northern CSOs, what would happen if that enormous potential could at least party be focused on common messages? Diversity is an asset that enriches civil society; however, CSOs should pay attention to the potential ‘noise’ that can result from many, complex and at times contradictory messages.
The above list could and should be much longer. The mediascape we live in changes and evolves by the day; newer platforms will emerge that will further challenge CSO strategies. A related challenge is thus not to erratically follow the ever newer platforms of communication. CSOs should not limit themselves to a theoretical debate about which channels to use, or mere acknowledgment of the difficulties and limits. CSOs should first and foremost change their attitudes towards communication as one of the key tools for the success of their visions for a better world.
Needless to say, CSOs cannot deal with all the above challenges at once, but can instigate a process that leads to gradual changes in direction. The implementation of any of the abovementioned proposals, notwithstanding the constraints and the specifics of individual organisations, would certainly imply a turning point in CSO communication strategy. Eventually, the execution of all of them will position CSOs in another and qualitatively much higher level in the global communication scenario. Nobody can achieve this alone. It is only by sharing skills, visions, and actions in the communications field that CSOs will reach this new phase. It is in CSOs’ hands, and CSOs’ hands alone.
 Herman, E. S. and R. W. McChesney (1998) The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Capitalism (London: Cassell).
 UNESCO document COM/MD/38, Paris, October 1976.
 Watanabe, K. (2013). “The western perspective in Yahoo! News and Google News: Quantitative analysis of geographic coverage of online news”, The International Communication Gazette, 75(2) 141–156.
 Valente, M. (2012). “New Media Law, New Voices in Argentina”, Inter Press Service, 2 November http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/11/new-media-law-new-voices-in-argentina/.