Hey media reformers: help stop CAFTA

UPDATE, July 1: The Senate has passed CAFTA, 54-45. Washington Senators Cantwell and Murray were among 10 Democrats supporting the terrible, odious trade agreement. The House is expected to vote soon after the July 4 recess. Rep. Jay Inslee has heeded constituents' call and will vote NO. That leaves one Washington State Representative on the fence: Cathy McMorris (R, Spokane). Let's keep the pressure on!

You've probably already heard a lot about the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA. If passed by the US Congress in the next few weeks, CAFTA can be expected to lower living standards, undermine democracy, harm environmental protection, exacerbate unsustainable trade deficits, and promote privatization of fundamental public services throughout Central America.

But CAFTA goes further, in ways that should alarm anyone concerned about media diversity and democracy. Unlike previous "free trade" agreements, CAFTA would treat so-called "cultural industries" (including electronic media, publishing, film and music production and news gathering) exactly like steel or bananas, commodities subject to market values instead of cultural and democratic fundamentals. CAFTA would undermine governments' ability to set their own media policies, including requirements for local ownership, diversity safeguards, and supports for local, community media - all these things could be challenged as unfair "restraints of trade."

Imagine a scenario in which a US media conglomerate could sue a Central American government, claiming that its local media regulations were violations of the company's free trade rights. We can't let big business lobbies scuttle the ability of nations to set their own democratic media policies.

If your Representatives and Senators haven't taken a stand against CAFTA, please contact them this week and urge them to oppose it. Here are handy instructions for making a call, along with contact information for Washington State electeds (other states, call the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121): www.seattleglobaljustice.org/WeAreWinningCAFTA.htm

Please make calls today. This is an international media policy issue as well as a fight for fair trade - and it's one we can win!

For more information about CAFTA, visit www.stopcafta.org, or our local Seattle companeros at the Citizens Alliance for Global Justice.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey