Colombia’s history is fraught with corruption, fights for power, and violence. The country’s weak government and justice system created a place in which no action is monitored. This resulted in the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Colombians. What is often overlooked is Colombia’s affect on foreign countries and the spread of its corruption to other places. Colombia’s domestic issues are also responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in other countries, who suffered in the wake of irresponsible decisions.
However, due to the danger of reporting in Colombia, few foreign publications are interested in reporting from inside. Colombia’s issues have affected many countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, and many neighboring countries in South America like Brazil or Panama. These countries regularly report on Colombia, and prioritize Colombia’s peace talks in their foreign news coverage. But, roughly half of the stories are wire stories, while the other half are stories that use aggregate reporting. The reporters find other news stories’ coverage of an issue, and compile that into one news story for their publication. I’ve noticed many of these reporters will also use media from domestic sources, like videos and photos from local Colombian publications. With aggregate reporting so popular, many stories are written by staff reporters, and few are from freelance writers.
Foreign aid? Foreign coverage
The reason the US and UK have an interest in reporting on Colombia is because of their commitment to giving aid to Colombia. Both have invested money and time in helping Colombia solve its corruption and violence issues. However, over the past decade the UK has slowly evaporated its aid plans for Colombia. But, the US is still investing millions of dollars toward aid, with Obama adding a new component to “Plan Colombia” already this year. Colombia’s foreign aid plans were originally born in the US in 1998, and have aimed to helped Colombia decrease drug trafficking and violence rates since.
But, Plan Colombia has problems of its own. During its fifteen years of activity, Plan Colombia hasn’t consistently kept coca cultivation rates down. Some years increased in overall production rates.
Despite the questionable efficacy of the plan, US news outlets don’t suggest there’s any issues with the aid plan’s progress. Many media outlets write stories about the triumphs in Colombia, such as a cocaine seizure or progress with the peace talks. It is unlikely to come across a story indicating the problems that are still in Colombia.
What else is covered?
However, many US publications covered a tragedy that happened last week in Colombia. Three Colombian journalists went missing, and are expected to be kidnapped by the E.L.N. rebel group. It’s clear that US publications may be more willing to cover violence against journalists in Colombia opposed to other issues because of personal dispositions and agendas.
And, in the past decade both US and British outlets have glamorized Colombian drug trafficking issues. Many of the major news outlets, including BBC, CNN and NY Times, have written a feature on the cocaine trafficking issues. Many of the stories include multimedia elements, including reporters recording themselves on-the-scene, or photo slideshows of coca farms or camps. These stories are popular because cocaine is huge in those cultures. Cocaine is a worldwide affair, and many readers find interest in the topic one way or another. Whether its your uncle’s favorite poison, or the appeal of the unknown, Colombia’s cocaine trafficking is a hot topic around the world.
Here is an example of a video that showcases the guerrilla camps in a flamboyant way. The video makes the guerrillas seem like show animals, and portrays their lifestyle as movie-like.
These larger issues fill most of the news spots in foreign publications’ coverage of Colombia. It’s rare to see a story about something other than Colombia’s civil war, drug issues, Zika virus or corruption. However, I’ve noticed many stories about Colombian soccer teams and games. This year, President Santos removed the sales tax for tourists, hoping to attract more visitors to the country. Stories that are entertainment based, like soccer, are from Colombia’s efforts to change foreign perception of Colombia. Many local outlets are reporting about arts and entertainment, showing foreign media who primarily aggregate stories about Colombia that those are the most important stories right now. And, with the peace talks underway with rebel groups, the country’s violent rebel activities have slowed down, making it difficult to report on more serious topics.
Latin American countries
Countries surrounding Colombia in South America occasionally report about Colombia because of overlap in the content. Many neighboring countries have similar issues, like impunity and drug trading. And, many of the people involved with these issues are connected. For example, here’s a story about a money launderer from Panama that was arrested in Colombia. It’s common to see people heavily involved in the drug trade work in multiple Latin American countries.
What about this week?
This week, BBC wrote a story about the media in Colombia, presenting numbers and facts about the different media used. The story began by explaining that Colombia has a self-censorship problem due to prominent danger and violence. It goes on to explain the popularity of different outlets and mediums. I found this interesting because it was published roughly a week after three journalists went missing in Colombia. What’s curious is that the story doesn’t mention the three missing journalists, it only mentions that Colombia is generally dangerous. Perhaps the reason this story is prevalent is because of the missing journalists, but why didn’t it mention them? If the story had mentioned the three journalists, it may have received more views, especially from those who are trying to find out more information about the missing people. It doesn’t make sense, which means there must be a piece of the puzzle that we’re missing.
Publications in the United States covered the missing journalists’ journey, including stories about the initial kidnappings and their returns to safety. With the US devoting much of their money to Colombia and its recovery, Americans want to see that their tax dollars are being used to the fullest. Without US coverage of Colombia, Americans would be in the dark about Plan Colombia and what their tax dollars are being used for.