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When the press is no guardian of democracy

Media observatories and analysts will be able to record in their studies that the coming to power of Colombia’s first leftist president and the private concentration of ownership of media companies ended up leading the media and several of its most renowned journalists to an undeniable crisis of social legitimacy and credibility, the likes of which has never been seen in the history of Colombian journalism.


Germán Ayala Osorio*


This incontrovertible reality of journalism in Colombia is skilfully concealed by using the daily confrontation on the X network of the President of the Republic with several of the journalist-staff who fulfil the assigned task of lying, distorting and concealing key contextual elements so that listeners, readers and viewers understand the context in which the news events should be inscribed. Although the head of state daily exposes the malicious (mis)informative pretensions of media outlets such as Semana, Blu radio, El Colombiano and El Tiempo, his journalists, columnists and other hegemonic media outlets victimise themselves by pointing out that these are attacks against freedom of the press and stigmatisation practices on the part of the Colombian president.

The crisis began to brew when the most powerful economic conglomerates decided to buy several prestigious mass media outlets to turn them into their official mouthpieces and ideological and political instruments to defend the old establishment.

The business for the businessmen Sarmiento Angulo and Gilinski, owners of El Tiempo and Semana, respectively, is not in the sale or digital consumption of their editions, but in the generation of public opinion adverse to the government, when there is a political and economic need to do so in accordance with their petty interests.

Having turned the prestigious daily El Tiempo and the then investigative magazine Semana into laboratories specialising in political marketing and in the construction of narratives based on speculation, lies and all kinds of manipulation of newsworthy facts, serves to confirm an unobjectionable truth: the contempt that both families feel for the profession of journalism as a sacred asset of democracy.

The patrons of Semana, El Tiempo, El Colombiano, Caracol and RCN can never be the “watchdogs of democracy” and much less their journalists obliged to follow the only editorial line that suits them at this juncture, if they wish to regain political power in 2026: to delegitimise the progressive government of Gustavo Petro.

To do so, they need to lie, generate unease, fear and uncertainty in social and economic sectors (investors) so that in the next elections they will vote in favour of the candidates that the right wing is already promoting, some of whom have emerged from the bowels of their own media companies.

This is the case of the director of Semana magazine, Victoria Eugenia Dávila, whom the Gilinski families and the Gnecco clan want to put in charge so that she can act as former president Iván Duque Márquez, ‘appointed’ by former president and ex-prisoner Álvaro Uribe Vélez, did in his time.

The purpose of Dávila, Néstor Morales and Ricardo Ospina, among other journalists, is to counteract at any cost the narrative of change that Petro is agitating and those that will be generated in any case with the agrarian reform, the improvement of tertiary and secondary roads, the correct macroeconomic management and the frontal fight against the drug traffickers that specific economic and political agents “protected” until 7 August 2022.

Of course, in the heated controversies between Petro and some agents of the hegemonic press, the one who loses the most is the president of the Republic himself and his government, and not because he is sometimes wrong: simply because he himself does not know how to communicate his achievements. Despite the good work of RTVC and the defenders of the X network, the scandals, the victimisation of journalists and the lack of news coverage of the government’s achievements will end up affecting the decisions of that part of public opinion that still believes the traditional press.

Petro should have handed over the responsibility of confronting the lying press to an official spokesperson of the Casa de Nariño as of 7 August 2022.

The bad intentions of the media companies can be explained by the fact that they stopped doing journalism a long time ago and became political actors obliged to counteract everything that the first progressive government does well and magnify, of course, its mistakes and the acts of corruption committed by those whom the president himself put in charge of state entities.

Petro is wearing down his presidential image with these fights. Those media and journalists took him where they wanted to take him: to the unworthy corner of a president who, in office, does not tolerate “criticism from the objective press”. This will be part of the narrative that the right will use in 2026 to regain the only thing that interests them: the Casa de Nariño.

*German Ayala Osorio: Journalist, writer and political scientist, with a Ph D in Sustainable Regions. Author of the blog La otra tribuna.

(Translated by Cristina Popa – Email: Pixabay

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