Colombia’s news publications are failing to adequately cover ongoing peace talks that seek to end more than 50 years of armed conflict in the country, according to an ongoing study.
The study of the Javeriana university in Bogota compiled more than 11,000 individual coverage pieces from two national print publications (El Espectador and El Tiempo) and five news channels (including CM&, Noticias Uno, Caracol, and RCN) since the peace process began in 2012.
According to Mario Morales, the study’s lead investigator, these media have only spent between one and two percent of their coverage on issues like pardon, reconciliation, human rights and victims.
“In Colombia, we know how to cover war but not peace”, Morales told investigative journalism website Verdad Abierta, adding that the reporting is not just lacking to cover the issues that are important to end the conflict, but are also partisan, favoring the government’s interests over that of the general public.
The Colombian media has largely focused covering the negotiations in general terms and lacking in context, according to the preliminary results of Morales’ ongoing study.
The university professor told Verdad Abierta that coverage in the years since negotiations have begun between the Colombian government and the FARC has been controversial, adversarial and produced a discourse of hatred.
The general discourse in the media regarding the overall peace process has been reduced to a generalized “good versus evil” logic that leaves readers and viewers misinformed over a conflict in which both warring parties face thousands of accusations of war crimes, said Morales.
The investigator identified three reasons why the Colombian media has failed in reporting the peace process accurately: a lack of credible sources, the almost exclusive citing of official statements in coverage, and the creation of a “machista” coverage.
“Half of analyzed pieces did not have sources and a huge portion only used one source,” said Morales.
In cases that sources were used, a significant portion of coverage pieces referred to official sources as sole contributor to first hand knowledge, Morales underlined, ignoring the rebels’ or victims’ perspectives.
Additionally, “we saw in the majority of pieces that we analyzed, both sources and subjects overwhelmingly were men. The women that do make it into the news are not taken seriously and there is always a hint of discrimination,” the investigator said.
“In other parts of the world, the media have managed to shift their focus and carry out peace reporting that, without being activist, pursues reconciliation. From what we have analyzed over the past three years we have come to a very strong conclusion: We are not prepared for this. In Colombia, we know how to cover war but not peace.”