Webinar “Kidnapping: its coverage and impact on journalism” was a success

Within the commemoration of its 45th anniversary, the Externado Social Communication - Journalism Faculty held this free webinar bringing together prominent journalists in the country.

In a space for dialogue, Salud Hernández, Azucena Liévano, Darío Fernando Patiño, and Andrés Gil addressed kidnapping from their personal experience, representative cases from different times, and the media responsibility in its coverage. The meeting was held together with the Truth Commission.

Writer and journalist Patricia Lara acted as moderator. The journalists spoke openly about their experience as ex-hostages.  In their case, Salud, Andrés, and Azucena referred to self-censorship and the handling of information in the kidnapping context.

Colombian-Spanish journalist, writer, and Semana Magazine columnist Salud Hernández spoke about her experience when she was kidnapped for ten days by the ELN in the Catatumbo area and released on May 27, 2016. “One of the missions of País Libre is to mobilize against kidnapping, but the only march against kidnapping that was truly spontaneous was that of 2008. There has been a great deal of indifference in this country in the face of all sort of kidnappings,” she said.

For her part, Azucena Liévano, a journalist from the Noticias Caracol editorial board and an expert on resilience issues, recounted details of her kidnapping in August 1990, together with a group of journalists from the Criptón newscast, by Los Extraditables group, led by Pablo Escobar. They were tricked with an alleged interview with ELN leader Manuel ‘el Cura’ Pérez. “I believe we were an instrument as kidnapped at that time, which was the most difficult on the issue of narco-terrorism. We were six journalists, and as they released us, one by one, there was a message to be delivered, and the lives of those remaining depended on it,” stated Azucena.

Andrés Gil Gómez, a news correspondent for Noticias RCN and NTN 24 in Spain, spoke about his abduction on October 5, 2000, by armed dissident groups on the Medellín – Bogotá highway. His release, hours later, was conditional on the delivery or reading of communications addressed to the government and public opinion. “I was saved by colleagues. At that time, the scandal formed in the media when there was not such a wide digital network, put pressure on the captors, and they released me,” he said. Faced with the reasons that led him to the place where he was kidnapped, Andrés stated: “Why do we get into those places? – for two reasons –  conviction and vocation, we go where we have to go to be able to report on the reality of the country.”

Darío Fernando Patiño, former director of Noticias Caracol, and Externadista communicator, spoke about kidnapping coverage and the media’s responsibility in dealing with this type of information.  “I don’t think there is a country that has experienced so many forms of kidnapping, so many kidnapping victims, and so many ways to cover it, like Colombia.” Regarding the editorial line he had to cover this issue, he said, “I could only talk about the period from 2000 to 2012 when I had a directing role. And there were so many forms of kidnapping in Colombia that it was challenging to build an editorial line; however, we shared a manual for the coverage of tragic and violent information, which included the subject of kidnapping,

Also attending the webinar were Luz Amalia Camacho, Dean of the Social Communication – Journalism Faculty, Clara Marcela Mejía, journalist and professor at the Faculty, and journalist Bibiana Mercado.