Colombia: What impact will the historic ceasefire have on the media? | Latin America | DW | 29.06.2016
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Latin America

Colombia: What impact will the historic ceasefire have on the media?

Latin America's longest-running armed conflict has effectively come to an end. The goal now is to prepare Colombians for a post-war era. DW Akademie is supporting local media in areas most affected by the conflict.

Kuba Raul Castro, Juan Manuel Santos und FARC-Rebellenführer Rodrigo Londono in Havanna

Historic handshake: Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londoño

After more than five decades of violence, Colombia's civil war has ended, assured Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC rebel leader, Rodrigo Londoño (also known as Timochenko) at the signing of the historic bilateral ceasefire deal. The ceremony was held on June 23 in Havana, Cuba.

However, the ceasefire agreement is not the final peace accord itself. Further negotiations are necessary before the accord can be signed and approved by Congress, and then put to the Colombian people in a national referendum.

The government's largest and most immediate challenge is to persuade the country's divided population to support the final accord. However, many people, including journalists, are still not clear on the details of the agreement. Opponents of the deal are using this uncertainty to stir up fears, and don't shy away from publishing false reports.

Strengthening civil participation

DW Akademie Bürgerjournalisten Kolumbien

DW Akademie works together with journalists reporting for community media such as Radio Vokaribe, located in one of Colombia's main conflict areas

For several years now, DW Akademie has been supporting local media in applying journalism skills to address and process the country's violent past. The armed conflict was conducted mainly in remote areas, and a final peace deal will mean that thousands of former rebels will have to be reintegrated into civil society. This means that local journalists and media in these areas need to get ready for playing an important role in the reconciliation process and working through the past.

Omar Rincón, a media critic and head of the German Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's media program in Colombia, says that the country's major media outlets are not doing as much as they could towards building a peaceful society. "Journalism in Colombia is still stuck in the past and is wary of the peace process. In the name of balanced reporting, it counters one voice in favor of peace with one voice against it," says Rincón.

"The media here need to focus on the future, adhere to the facts, report on the peace agreement, provide a context and use objective language. And more than anything else," he says, "they really need to believe in peace itself."

Contributing to peace and justice

Matthias Kopp

Matthias Kopp, DW Akademie country coordinator for Colombia

The national media are in the hands of just a few large corporations and now need to carry responsibility – but so do the journalists themselves, points out Ginna Merelo, a journalist from the leading daily newspaper El Tiempo and director of the journalists' organization Consejo de Redacción.

"We can change the media because we're the ones producing the stories," she says. "The media will be playing a major role in building a more open and just society, so they can't abdicate responsibility and continue peddling polarization as news."

Consejo de Redacción is a DW Akademie partner that conducts workshops and provides consulting on conflict-sensitive reporting. There are new and exciting times ahead. Although the signing date of the final peace accord hasn't yet been set, it's generally thought that it will be signed within the next few months.

But for the journalists working with Consejo de Redacción and other DW Akademie partners it's already clear that over the next few years, they will be playing a key role in the peace-building and healing process of their war-torn country.

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