Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Santos' Visit to Mexico and Journalists' Role in Confronting Organized Crime

From Bajo Reserva:
During the state visit to Mexico by the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, there was a meeting of journalists from both countries to share experiences and editorial practices regarding the coverage of security an the violence that organized crime groups. The director-general of the Colombian National Police, General Óscar Naranjo, had a brief participation in which he explained that Colombia's national media outlets served as an umbrella, as protection, for local media, harassed by the groups. But he also said that media investigations were the point of the spear in the destruction of Colombian groups. The press did a good part of the work, he said.
Two things: now that I think about it, you rarely see the national dailies --not even the local iterations of the national chains-- being killed by organized crime; it's usually the independent locals, as Naranjo says.

Also, I think the point about the media being a potential ally for the government, and the government's inability to see that, demonstrates the narrow, scandal-phobic approach to fighting organized crime by the Calderón administration. It's not unlike the debate over the fuero militar in that sense.


Mexfiles said...

On the other hand, I've yet to hear anyone claim the Colombian media as particularly proactive in investigative reporting, or even willing to contradict the "official story". The last really independent news magazine, Semana, was bought out and turned into a gossip/celebrity rag with open support by the Colombian government

pc said...

You may be right, but I dont know if I would draw too many conclusions from having bought a single celeb magazine.

pc said...

Sorry misread that, I see now. I dunno, I hate to speak as though I have any real knowledge of the Colombian media. Maybe it's hypocritical, but the point remains valid for Mexico nonetheless.

jd said...

All due respect to Mexfiles, but this is just wrong. First of all, the magazine that turned soft was Cambio, not Semana, which has done and continues to do all sorts of investigative reporting and independent analysis. Here's a link to their archives if you'd like to look for yourself:

More generally, anyone this side of the FARC would agree that Colombian media has been utterly instrumental in breaking and/or publicizing many major scandals. The print press has played a huge role in nearly every controversy that has broken in Colombia in recent years, including parapolitics, the DAS surveillance scandal, and most of the Uribe administration corruption scandals that have been flowing freely in the last year. Semana and even El Tiempo (partially owned by the Santos family) lead the pack, but other outlets and websites (like La Silla Vacia) actively pitch in.

Look, Colombia has enormous, overwhelming, depressing problems, but scandals and abuses are uncovered, investigated, and, yes, prosecuted at a volume that Mexico should aspire to. This isn't exactly the same as Naranjo's point, but it is important nonetheless. And while the media, especially TV, is far from perfect, it's a cog in the system of at least occasional accountability that I'll be damned if I see in Mexico.