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Journalism and Narcoterrorism in Colombia

NCJ Number
A M M Castellanos
Date Published
33 pages
The newspapers and other mass media in Colombia have had a major role in issues related to drug trafficking and narcoterrorism.
Although Colombia produced and exported great amounts of marijuana in the mid-1970's, the media did not begin systematic and public attacks on drug trafficking until 1983. The change occurred because some drug traffickers infiltrated political life and the media. As a result, the media began to view drug trafficking as a an issue of public order rather than public health. It moved news of violent events from the inner pages to the front pages, magnifying the power of drug traffickers as a way of broadening the fight against them and halting their participation in politics. The drug traffickers also sent their own messages through the media by means of clandestine press conferences and, eventually, kidnappings and bombings. The media called for total war against drug trafficking, and the government allowed self-defense groups to operate in the country. Eventually, both the media and the government acknowledged that these groups had committed serious human rights violations. Thus, the media both repudiated and invoked violence and became targets of the violence they had once summoned against drug traffickers. The public was sandwiched between the media and government perspective and that of the drug traffickers and gradually began to value peace more highly than punishment of crime. These events teach several important lessons about the role of the media, its depictions of violent events, and its responsibilities. 14 references