In the different journalistic and news coverage and treatment of the events related to the national strike in Colombia, the social mobilisations and the behaviour of the members of the National Police, two circumstances can be distinguished that compromise those who work as journalists and journalism itself.
And secondly, the courage and commitment to the truth of local reporters who, far from the circles of power in which the star journalists who report from the country’s capital move, stand-alone against the Esmad and the entire political, economic, military and police power structure, that has long co-opted media outlets such as El Tiempo, Semana, Caracol, RCN, CM & and, of course, local media traditionally associated with old oligarchies in capital cities such as Cali, Popayán and Medellín, among others.
Because of these two circumstances, the idea that there are, at least, two types of journalism makes sense: that which the big media companies do and that which, with enormous efforts, independent journalists devote themselves to through local channels and alternative media such as Cuestión Pública, among others.
But there is no such thing: there is only one kind of journalism. And in this, journalists go out in search of the truth, investigate, collate, question official sources, confront and disturb those who hold any form of power, and in particular, examine with a magnifying glass the behaviour of police and Esmad agents, who are accused of abuses and crimes committed against demonstrators.
So then, journalism (with a capital ‘J’) is what local reporters and others have been doing, who have been boldly confronting the police and criticising the traditional elite, who are largely responsible for the social uprising, because they have connived with the erratic economic and social policy of the central government, with which it has been dealing with the systemic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
And of course, because its members have kept silent in the face of unbearable public-private corruption. If Journalism is indivisible, then what do we call what Caracol, RCN, El Tiempo and Semana, among other media, do? It would be easy to say that what these media companies do is not journalism in the strict sense.
Rather, what they do is journalism committed to the official truth, or corporate-institutional journalism that operates to maintain the status quo.
Or perhaps more clearly: they do journalism with a small ‘j’, because small is their journalists’ commitment to the construction of a Truth that satisfies the whole of society, and not exclusively the members of the closed circle of political and economic power that sustains the media companies for which they work..
The coverage and treatment of the events related to the mobilisations and the violent state onslaught by the journalist and owner of Cali’s Channel 2, José Alberto Tejada, and the journalists of Cuestión Pública, with their recent analysis of the urban self-defence groups in Cali’s Ciudad Jardin, constitute proper journalistic attitudes and actions.
To these colleagues, congratulations for their work. Keep digging until you find the Truth that builds a true democracy.
I leave these 12 “sentences” for your reflection:
- There can be no free press if there is an economic monopoly behind the media.
- Let us not forget that the mass media are political and economic actors, hence we should always doubt what they say.
- When journalism is not on the side of the weak, but at the service of the powerful, it becomes mere ideology.
- We must doubt those citizens who believe in a ruler. And we must doubt journalism that serves their interests.
- Uncritical, ahistorical public opinion, incapable of understanding what is going on, is the fruit of the business centres where journalism is done today.
- When the journalist admires or feels an inordinate respect for a source, there the reporter dies and a mere postal sorting office is born.
- Journalists without context, without background, without criteria and subject to the ‘first news syndrome’, are not equipped to cover a peace process and social mobilisations.
- The discussion is not whether the press is free – which it should be – but how much the press serves democracy.
- Self-censorship not only invalidates the watchdog role of the press, but also affects democratic institutions.
- The role of journalism and the role of journalists is to inform, discomfort, monitor, follow, question and criticise those who hold any form of power.
- It is possible to glimpse how sick society and its journalists are through the way that the press deals with news.
- When we realise the damage done by official journalism, then we will have understood the relationship between the press and power.