The peace process carried out with the FARC eleven years ago has been called a failure because the media turned it into a carnival, a circus of news. But in doing so, it uncovered the FARC — in the eyes of Colombians as well as the international community — as the hypocrites they are: while the FARC talked peace to the negotiators and to the media, they were building up militarily and rounding up their militias. (Incidentally, last time around, there was a demilitarized zone given to the FARC as a concession for peace talks, and many of the minors who lived in this DMZ were forcibly recruited into the FARC.) The peace process may have failed in 2002 but Colombians discerned who the FARC really are; the FARC ceased being an enigma.
This time around, during the FARC-government peace talks currently being held in Havana, the government has decided to act tight-lipped about any aspect of the negotiations. To me, this is worrisome.
Respected journalist Maria Isabel Rueda asked the heads of Colombia’s most watched and most circulated media for their opinions.
I agree with Alejandro Santos Rubino, the editor-in-chief of Semana newsmagazine. Alejandro said, “About the peace process, the more information there is, and the more opinions and points of view, the peace process becomes more legitimate. For society to assimilate what is at play in the negotiations, it is absolutely essential to have fluid and permanent information.”
Rodrigo Pardo García-Peña, the director of RCN News, had a similar view. He said, “ .. the government has to explain to the public what is happening. .. The government has opted for not giving any information … and that is very risky. Come tomorrow, there will be an accord that has to do with the participation of the FARC in politics, with some accords about land reform which affect many people who have not prepared for such news.”
Further, Sebastián Hiller, the director of Vanguardia Liberal, a regional newspaper, added that there have been great rumors and speculations in the rural zones among the people who will be affected.
But the words of Martha Ortiz, the director of El Colombiano newspaper, are puzzling to me. Martha said, “… A negotiation of this kind is not for everybody to have an opinion. ..”
Whaaat? Are we not building a democracy in the true sense of the word? Dearest, Martha, what is next?– Will the vote for women be revoked? Will there only be the white males allowed to have opinions? — For the fact is the government’s negotiators are all white males. There are no representatives of Afro-Colombians, Indigenous, women, or the poor. Looking closely, there are no representatives of unions.
The words of Roberto Pombo, the director El Tiempo newspaper, also send a shiver up my spine. He said “ .. I am not worried about what is being given (to the FARC) because we are in the hands of serious people. … ”
As “serious people” as Roberto Pombo thinks the government negotiators are, they do not represent me. They do not represent the families of victims of the FARC. What chaos will happen if the FARC are given impunity, and the country has no say?
The words of Martha Ortiz and Roberto Pombo show Colombia has a long way to go on the path to peace. The media are part of the institutions I hope to one day see strong and respected in Colombia, but if the very people whose job would be to strengthen the media feel it’s more their place to act with prudence (read: shut up), Colombia will continue on its path of violence.
The government needs to recognize the media are part of a democracy, and the government needs to give more information in order to legitimize and facilitate the peace process and make it inclusive to all members of society.