Rosa Jalja is editor-in-chief of the community station "Radio Copacabana" and for decades has been focusing on giving indigenous people a voice. Her station broadcasts in Aymara, the language of her own ethnic group.
Rosa Jalja in the studio. The head of "Radio Copacabana" has been working as a journalist for 46 years
For the past 46 years, Rosa Jalja has been working in radio on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world. She runs Radio Copacabana, one of the six community stations belonging to the Aymara language radio network "Aruskipawi" and supported by the non-governmental Bolivian organization, Fundación UNIR. DW Akademie works with the NGO in providing journalism training. The aim is to get locals involved in community radio and create new broadcasting formats that reflect their needs. Rosa Jalja's radio station broadcasts in Aymara, the language spoken by her own ethnic group. In Aymara, "Aruskipawi" means "Let's talk to each other".
In an interview with DW Akademie, Rosa Jalja talks about her commitment to media freedom
Ms. Jalja, how are you and Radio Copacabana contributing to media freedom?
When I was 17 years old, I started working at Radio San Gabriel where the programs were broadcast in Aymara and aimed at farmers and getting citizens involved. That was 46 years ago. The most important aspect today is that we are still broadcasting in Aymara. There are still people who can't read or write, so radio remains their most important source of information.
What does freedom of the press mean to you?
That there can be no discrimination. We Aymara journalists are on the side of the listener, the people . Thanks to Fundación UNIR we've learned that journalists need to be able to report under safe conditions. That is freedom. Journalists need their own convictions and be able to tell the whole truth. For me, freedom of the press means that journalists can freely pass on their information.
How would you describe your work?
Sixty percent of Radio Copacabana's programs are focused on news and information. We often report directly from the town hall for Copacabana's 18,000 inhabitants. We also offer training, together with Fundación UNIR, for young journalists from rural communities. And we want to see more women in senior positions. So, for example, we trained 32 women on how to work with cameras and write scripts, and they're now working for major media companies in La Paz, the capital. Journalists, you see, also have to fight for the equal rights for women.
What inspires you the most?
Serving the audience. People who don't have a radio aren't really alive. Radio can reach people on the farm, in the office, at home or in the shops. That's why we broadcast in Aymara and Spanish. Fighting for justice also inspires me. Prior to the early 1980s, the indigenous population was subjected to great injustice from the military state and had to cope with coups and changing governments. These are dark chapters in our history and they've motivated me to inform others. Back then, no one reported on the number of people who had been killed or imprisoned but that has changed and radio is now a community radio and we can work freely.
Which story has affected you the most?
Talking to the victims' families after the 1980 coup. Farmers had been killed, wounded or had gone missing and I had to report on relatives who had come to pick up some of the dead. I'll never forget that.
Rodrigo Villarzú, Head of DW Akademie's Latin America department, visiting Rosa Jalja in her radio studio
What is one of your fondest memories?
The public dialogues we organized with Fundación UNIR on youth rights or on water supply. They were part of a dialogue series that enabled public debates were broadcast live on radio. Copacabana residents were demanding drinking water, so we sensitized the politicians responsible. As a result, all homes will have running water starting in September 2018. This is motivating because as a radio station, we can move government offices by reporting on pressing issues.
What are your plans for the future?
To keep learning and trying out new formats. I've traveled abroad and now want to make a film about an indigenous woman farmer. I'm over 60 but still going strong."