Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday claimed the media is used by the FARC to secure the impact of their actions are amplified. The president couldn’t be more right, but instead of implying journalists are accomplices of terror he could also be making an effort to end the war.
The FARC, having had 48 years of experience in warfare, must have read military literature or even Wikipedia about the use of propaganda, hearts-and-minds campaigns, psychological warfare, etc.
So whenever possible and unless entirely retarded, the FARC will integrate the use of media in whatever war strategy they plan. If this strategy proves successful, the FARC will not only consolidate military successes in the field, but will also successfully have increased the morale of its own troops, have hurt the morale of enemy forces and have influenced public opinion in its favor.
The fact is that we are in an armed conflict, so obviously the media will report on this armed conflict and consequently the armed actors will try to influence the media to their military advance. Santos knows this, because his own military machine is applying exactly the same techniques as the FARC.
In fact, three days before Santos’ remark, the president cited an alleged FARC email in which was written that “ethics allow us to align with who ever and in the end use media.”
The president’s remark on Saturday was no stand-alone comment.
However, what Santos forgets is that the media, in particular journalists, serve not — as the president implies — as a channel to allow the propaganda of an armed actor to reach fellow-citizens unfiltered and so serve the purpose of the warring faction.
The basic principles of journalism dictate that journalism’s obligation is to the truth and its loyalty is to citizens. I repeat, citizens. Not governments, not corporations and not illegal armed groups. Furthermore, the principles dictate journalists maintain an independence from those they cover.
In other words, if a journalist lies or distorts the truth, and aligns him or herself with anything but his or her fellow citizens, he or she will not only disregard the foundations and ethics of the profession, but would also lose all credibility.
So, whenever information that has been emitted by an armed actor reaches a reporter, a good journalist then tries to verify the veracity of the claims so that we, the citizens, are informed well and consequently able to form more educated opinions about what is going on around us.
Santos, as former Defense Minister and of a family with one foot in Colombia’s political history and the other foot in Colombia’s media history, knows all sides of politics, the conflict and journalists’ approach to the conflict.
It is Santos and other “journalists” who align with political parties, corporations, religious institutions or illegal armed groups who don’t know, understand or respect the principles of journalism, and disregard the interests of citizens.
However, this type of biased reporting is no subject of discussion as long as it favors the government, the armed forces or the large corporations. It only becomes a thorny issue when reporting on the truth becomes inconvenient.
Instead of alleging that “the media” allow themselves to be used by terrorist organizations, I suggest Santos comes up with either an effective war or peace strategy and not shoot the messenger. If there was no war, we wouldn’t be reporting on it.