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Latin America

Colombia: The media and the culture of remembrance

Dealing with the past and the role of the media - themes that sparked lively debate in Medellín, Colombia. DW Akademie Director Christian Gramsch took part in the discussion.

Paneldiskussion Erinnerungskultur Kolumbien

How can and how should journalists report on conflict? DW Akademie and the University of Antioquia in Medllín, Colombia invited participants to an animated discussion.

Colombia has endured armed conflict longer than any other Latin American nation - for around 60 years. Coming to terms with the violence and crimes committed in the country is a long and difficult process that only started gathering positive momentum over the past three years. The role of journalists and the media in addressing the conflict in Colombia is not only a sensitive issue; it's also crucial for coming to terms with the past.

Paneldiskussion Erinnerungskultur Kolumbien

Director Christian Gramsch emphasized the media's responsibility to provide background and context

On Monday, October 5, 2015, DW Akademie and the University of Antioquia hosted a panel discussion in Medellín titled "Public Service Broadcasters and a Culture of Remembrance." The discussion was part of a symposium organized by the Federation of Latin American Faculties of Social Communication (FELAFACS), and examined the role of Colombia's media and media professionals in working through the country's past. Germany's own experience in this area was held up as a model.

Peace reporting and narrating history

Christian Gramsch, the Director of DW Akademie, was one of five panel guests. "There is always going to be a new generation that wants and needs to understand the broader context, and it's the role of the media to provide that context," said Gramsch, speaking to an audience of around 80 in Medellín. Omar Rincón, well-known media critic and essayist from the University of Los Andes, said that the Colombian media rarely tell the actual story of the war; they merely acknowledge its existence. To date there has been no in-depth reporting on the problems, nor have the root causes of the conflict been analyzed.

Colombia's media have not acquitted themselves very well in peace reporting either. "There is an ongoing battle for possession of the narrative. Public service broadcasters and the private media are not capable of reporting on peace," Rincón said. This is essential to the process, given that peace is just as important as war in processing the past.

Paneldiskussion Erinnerungskultur Kolumbien

From left to right: Patricia Nieto, journalist and lecturer, University of Antioquia (Medellín), Omar Rincón, media critic, University of Loa Andes, Bogotá, Christian Gramsch, Director DW Akademie, Olga Castaño, National Television Authority, Carlos Carmona, Teleantioquia, Mirjam Gehrke, DW Akademie

An unstoppable force

The discussion also acknowledged the importance of testimonials from victims. "The government, journalists and the media were not the driving force behind the process of coming to terms with the past. It was the victims themselves. They are an unstoppable force," said journalist Patricia Nieto, who has published a number of books that give voice to survivors and the family members of victims. Carlos Carmona from regional public television broadcaster "Teleantioquia" admitted that Colombia's media are now facing the huge challenge of raising public awareness of survivors' stories.

As debate on the role of the media continued, DW Akademie Director Christian Gramsch said that all media professionals had an obligation to bring a varied and balanced perspective to their stand on the conflict.

Other participants included Olga Castaño, representative of public and private universities at Colombia's National Television Authority (Autoridad Nacional de Televisión) and David Hernández, Dean of the Faculty of Communications at the University of Antioquia, who gave the opening address. Mirjam Gehrke, DW Akademie's country coordinator for Ecuador, moderated the debate before opening the floor to questions from the audience.

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