Tuesday, March 7, 2017

IMN Interview Series:Monica del Pilar Uribe Marin : “The presence of different cultures in a country contributes to its development……”

The first guest in our interview series is Monica del Pilar Uribe Marin, Director and Editor-In-Chief of The Prisma – The Multicultural Newspaper – London, United Kingdom.

                          Interviewer:Dr.Khayala Mammadova
Head, International  Multicultural Network

 1.Let’s begin by introducing yourself to our esteemed readers.
I am a professional journalist and the founder and director of the The Prisma – The Multicultural Newspaper, a weekly newspaper based in Britain. I was born in Colombia, a country in South America, and I’ve lived in England for a number of years. I’ve worked in journalism constantly, all my adult life. I’ve been a reporter, a researcher, a columnist, editor and director, mainly in written media – printed and online – and recently also in TV. I am also a translator. My specialisms are the environment, politics, human rights, immigrant issues, and vulnerable sectors of society. And I have given talks on these issues in different countries.
I’ve also written a book and co-authored three others. I believe in independent and ethical journalism, and that objectivity in journalism is unattainable. The journalist’s commitment is to tell the truth, without interpreting or hiding it.
The journalist must be involved with what is happening in the world, not simply informing and reproducing facts. They must expose injustice, corruption, murder… analyse, feel and understand suffering, be familiar with the context, the causes and the consequences. And have a sense of humanity. I am also an activist. In Colombia, it was in environmental issues, and in Britain on issues affecting immigrants. I believe in respecting differences, and at the same time preferences. I support ethnic and religious freedoms, as well as in areas concerning age, gender sexuality and so on.

2.How did you get into this line of work, what is your background?
There are writers and journalists in my family. So, for me, being attracted by journalism was something ‘natural’. I studied Social Communication at the Xaverian Pontifical University of Colombia, specializing in Journalism.
I started as a reporter for a local paper, and later worked for the most important national newspaper, El Tiempo, and then I worked as a freelance journalist for nearly all the magazines. I did some radio work, and while I was still very young I was responsible for creating and managing the Revista Prisma (Prisma magazine), which, although it belonged to an institution of the Colombian government, allowed me to bring new national and international writers to the public, and to develop a deeper awareness of environmental issues. For 6 years I was the Director and Editor of this amazing project. Six years of creative and intense work. In fact the Prisma magazine positioned itself as a serious and responsible medium, and was even nominated for the Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize as the best contribution to Colombian journalism.
Journalism got me involved in environmental activism, and in some way, I understood that objective journalism is unattainable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less ethical or professional. Gradually, I became less impressed by the mainstream media, and by the time I was 25 it was already clear to me that independent journalism had more possibilities, if not of making money, then certainly in terms of freedom of expression, a freedom which in a country like Colombia is difficult, because to be a journalist or to think differently is risky.
For different reasons, I left the country, and in Britain I wrote about Colombia and Latin America, for a number of different publications. And then, since the paper I worked for in Colombia had closed down, I decided to create The Prisma – The Multicultural Newspaper, not only in Spanish, but in English as well, thinking of Latin America and of the immigrants from those countries in the UK. And, although Latin America continues to be our main focus, over time, the multicultural situation in a country like the UK became more important. The needs and problems of immigrants were so unavoidable, that it became essential to discuss and defend multiculturalism.

3. How has being Director and Editor-in-Chief of “The Prisma – The Multicultural newspaper” had an impact on your career?
A big impact. Running a newspaper for immigrants is a unique and rewarding experience. And even more so, being an immigrant myself. For this reason, I chose ethical and independent journalism, produced for immigrants, which provides in-depth information about their different experiences and cultures. The Prisma is, if not the only, then certainly one of the few newspapers dedicated to this issue. And working with a magnificent team - which changes all the time because we are all volunteers - has allowed me to get to know other cultures in more depth, and confirmed the importance of understanding and respecting their differences. In addition, working with journalists, translators and proof-readers of different nationalities is a constant learning process about different cultures and customs.
Apart from our task of informing, we at The Prisma have joined or encouraged campaigns against raids on immigrants, in favour of recognition of Latin Americans as an ethnic minority in the UK, and for diversity and multiculturalism. We have organised events and developed activities for immigrants. An important event was the debate fully organised by The Prisma at a meeting in the House of Commons, called Multiculturalism in the UK – Has it got a future?. 133 people attended the debate.
The Prisma is recognised for its role in help for immigrants,  as has been pointed out by British media like The Guardian. And with good reason because The Prisma is a unique paper, thanks to its multicultural team: Spanish, English, Latin-American, Chinese, French, Italian, Africa, French... In other words people of different nationalities who believe in this project and who make it possible.

4.And, do you write some of the content for The Prisma yourself?
Yes, absolutely. Not as much as I would like, because managing and editing absorb much of my time. But yes, I write articles, generally opinion pieces, or interviews and reports, exposés, or multicultural notices.

5. What policies do you think bring the greatest hope for managing competing interests in multicultural societies?
Policies of free markets and free movement, open frontiers and fair commerce. Policies which allow those in host countries to understand the reasons for granting asylum, for immigration; a continuing dialogue and investigation, both of the phenomenon of migration and of multiculturalism in itself. To make known the reasons for migration, which is not only motivated by violence in the countries of origin, but also for economic reasons, from countries impoverished by corruption, or simply because the rich countries have extracted their wealth, obliging the population to migrate.

6.What opportunities have you had of working and collaborating in diverse, multicultural and inclusive settings?
Cultural diversity implies a rewarding diversity of ideas and customs. The presence of different cultures in a country contributes to its development. Working in a multicultural environment offers a bigger picture of things, and hence a better understanding of differences. It also makes you aware that, although sometimes they are not noticeable, racism and other kinds of discrimination are a reality in countries with a history of invading, colonising and domination, countries which nevertheless don’t accept other communities arriving in their territories.

7. Describe a situation in which you used your multicultural skills to solve a problem.
There are many, being able to help other immigrants, and not just to understand what it’s like to feel and live in an environment that is not your own. Because I speak English, although my native tongue is Spanish, I’ve been able to help immigrants who had problems with documents or who were detained, as a translator or interpreter. And through the newspaper, not just me, but other journalists and translators, have been able to explain to British readers a situation which many of them were unaware of, or didn’t understand. And also, by guiding and advising immigrants who don’t know the customs of the country in which they are living.

8. Tell us about a time when you changed your style to work more effectively with a person from a different background.
I always have to keep in mind that talking to someone from a different culture requires me to be more open to different ideas and ways of doing things, and the usage of a language which is not our own, but which universally connects us: English. This means asking and trying to know how the members of The Prisma who are in Britain feel and live, whether they are British or not. This allows me to know and understand them, and be able to make a journalism which is close to immigrants. A multicultural journalism.

9. Is there anything that you wanted to mention specifically about your multicultural newspaper, or for our audience?
The Prisma is an independent newspaper. The hundreds of professionals who work together here to produce a high quality weekly newspaper, dedicated to immigrants, work as volunteers. We have been working now for seven years as journalists for immigrants (thousands of them; their lives, their problems, their campaigns, their opinions, have been published in our pages), but the time has come when we need help in order to continue.
People need to understand that the point we have reached in the UK as a multicultural newspaper, requires a lot of effort. But although supporting multiculturalism is not profitable, even so it is rewarding.

10. You have probably communicated with leaders and intellectuals from other cultures. What is their attitude to all this?
It depends on the politics and the interests that they support. But in general, if they represent the US, the UK or the strong countries in Europe, it is a tacit rejection. Public discourse (because it is politically correct) is all about openness and embracing multiculturalism, but in practice they are implementing policies which block access to immigrants, and make their lives difficult or stigmatise them. The same thing happens among intellectuals. But those who have a well thought out standpoint, and have a thorough understanding of multiculturalism know that it is inevitable and they defend it. The history of every nation is based on multicultural relations. And of course, there are leaders who understand the importance of multiculturalism and support it.

11. How do you evaluate the importance and perspectives of the Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism, as the means of serving peace and stability in the world?
A country where there is religious freedom, where more than one language is spoken and which is open to multiculturalism, has all the possibilities for cultural, political and economic development. By encouraging the acceptance of differences, the government becomes social democratic, whose people can be sure that peace and equality are possible.

12. As a multicultural country, what kind of role can Azerbaijan play in multicultural dialogue?
A multi-ethnic country is necessarily multicultural. Hence, it has to create democratic opportunities for its inhabitants who belong to different ethnic groups, cultures, beliefs and customs. It has to take on, in some way, the international calls in defence of multiculturalism, even  more so at the present time, when countries like the UK, and others in Europe, have shown government policies that are racist and discriminatory, and generate hatred and intolerance. It is necessary to encourage platforms and media which promote multiculturalism.

13. Thank you for your time, any final words for our readers..
It is important not to trust media controlled by capitalists, and where there is no defence or respect for human rights. People need to understand multiculturalism and know that it is both necessary and inevitable, and although the Right has again taken over many platforms, it is necessary to make the maximum effort to promote tolerance and respect.
Anti-multiculturalist attitudes have increased in response to immigration and asylum seekers, and this is the enemy of social democracy. To disparage multiculturalism is as common as stigmatizing immigrants. And this is what we have to combat. We must campaign for a world without borders, even it looks like a not possible dream that never will be fulfilled.

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