While the mainstream media devotes attention to the upcoming Olympics and the often unflattering portraits of favelas, community media in Brazil is rising to provide an alternative story.

Recently the world’s mainstream media has been covering Brazil in an unfavorable way, often by stigmatising the favelas and portraying them as solely dangerous places. Particularly among these is the Australian media, after their national Olympic committee announced it would not allow its athletes to enter favelas and consider them as “no-go” zones.

However, there is another side to the story and it wants to be heard. Late in June, a group of 25 people gathered in the Rocinha favela in the South of Rio de Janeiro. The group, known as Rocinha Sem Fronteiras, conducted a discussion with journalists from community media organisations of the region.

Even if Brazil has one of the largest media markets in South America, an international investigation revealed that it is highly concentrated, with most outlets owned by a small number of families with tied interests.

Communities in the favelas are very active in providing an alternative, especially on what concerns the role of community media. “Our ideology is to emphasise the people, make a difference here,” said Leandro Lima, a resident and journalist of Rocinha to RioOnWatch. “So our focus has always been community communications.”

Community media in the favelas seeks to offer a different side to that of traditional media, which often overlooks the issues that are of real interest. During the meeting several residents affirmed they wanted to read more about political and national news in local media, and to see “what mainstream media doesn’t show.”

Therefore community media in Brazil wants to create a discussion and a narrative that goes beyond reproducing that of mainstream media, which often focuses on crime and violence. “We try to talk about another kind of violence, like lack of basic sanitation,” said Cleber Araujo, a journalist and communications consultant at TV Tagalera. “We are trying to enhance culture and show what we have of value here inside, what we have constructed at the margins of society, what we are able to do that is good.”

The alternative media in the favelas wants to focus more on the arts, and issues such as health, sanitation and education, which are too often overlooked. In spite of the financial difficulties and lack of funding, community media seems to be giving Brazilian journalists and members of its’ communities, inside and outside the favelas, the chance to communicate with their own words.