Saturday, October 9, 2010

Where Colombia Maybe Can Offer Some Prescriptions for Mexico

Isaac Lee, founder of Poder, argues that Colombia presents a model for how to protect a free press despite threats from organized crime:
In November 1999, three months after Garzón's murder, 32 media executives signed an agreement designed to improve the quality of press coverage of drug-related violence around the country. This attitude was fundamental in helping Colombia reach a consensus on the need to fight drug trafficking and criminal enterprise. There was never any doubt as to what had to be done on the part of the government, the media establishment (this is, the owners and editors of major magazines and newspapers, the most important columnists, and TV networks), or the private sector: Keep on condemning the wrongdoings of the drug traffickers, no matter how harsh the consequences.

The effectiveness of the international war on drugs is debatable. But that uncertainty has not prevented Colombian society from rejecting terror as a means of gaining power. The government must understand that when a member of the press is attacked, society at large is attacked; therefore, defending the media must be a priority. This means that the upmost diligence should be applied to all investigations, prosecutions, and the sentencing of the perpetrators in such cases. And, not only should the president allot as many resources as are necessary for the job, but the highest degree of his political will and accountability should be invested in the enterprise. Journalists, for their part, must remember that the power that comes with getting published and being heard is much more of a responsibility than a privilege.

Periods of crisis such as the ones experienced in Colombia—and now in Mexico—are not the time for doubt or division, but rather for the authorities, the media, and the private sector to join forces and work toward a better future. That should be the lesson of Colombia's terrible recent history.
That part about continuing to condemn the wrongs despite the consequences hasn't happened in Mexico, and I do wonder if it occurred quite as universally in Colombia as he describes. But even if it didn't, the Mexican press and the society at large could certainly present a more unified front in standing up to criminals, but it seems unlikely without a corresponding commitment from the government to investigate and punish crimes against journalists.

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