Journal Papers

Comparing alternative media in North and South: the cases of IFIWatchnet and Indymedia in Africa


Abstract: Alternative media form an important part of the global mediascape. Research on this phenomenon is, however, often drawn from studies in the `global North’. In this paper we discuss alternative media in the `global South’, by exploring two case studies of cooperation between Northern and Southern partners: IFIWatchnet in South America, and Indymedia Centre in Africa.We highlight how Northern and Southern partners differed in identity, organizational forms, and accountability. We find that Northern partners were oriented to more `marginal’ identities, fluid organizational structures, and informal structures of accountability. In contrast, Southern activists articulated more ‘mainstream’ identities, relied on more structured forms, and linked to formalized modes of accountability. The result was often significant clashes over what it meant to be alternative media, how alternative media should be organized, and how people should be held to account. This meant that North – South cooperation was often fraught with struggle. These difficulties are reminiscent of the limitations of creating global cooperation through seeking to spread modes of activist organization developed in the North, which emphasize autonomy, networks, fluidity, and, in some instances, direct action.

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