A Strategy for an Informed Society in Colombia
In Colombia, Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa is working to improve the quality of news from rural areas or so called information deserts, particularly those affected by armed conflict. Supported by UNDEF, a mobile Journalism Lab provides training in journalism skills for local leaders and active citizens in towns where a decades long armed conflict has established the ideal conditions for silence and censorship. These areas, besides lacking local media outlets, have high indices of poverty, and a presence of illegal groups and local politicians that in many cases end up under investigation or in jail for acts of corruption. This initiative aims to restore local communication networks, and therefore improve conditions for press freedom in ten target municipalities and promote a favorable environment for democracy.
The mobile Journalism Lab started its journey in June 2019 and has thus far passed through three municipalities. Participants are trained in journalism skills and are being encouraged to engage around local issues in their communities. For example, Yury Marcela Poloche is the governor of the Escobal indigenous community and participated in the first cycle of the Journalism Lab in Chaparral, Tolima. She is currently working to create an audio news outlet via WhatsApp in Las Hermosas Canyon, a vast rural area almost five hours away from the nearest urban center. “The idea of our project is to deliver news of the people living in the canyon through WhatsApp because the news we get there is from big cities such as Ibagué and Bogotá”, says Poloche.
Luz Mery Franco, who trained with the mobile Journalism Lab, started a hyperlocal news project called Contacto Informativo de Puerto Saldaña alongside three other young participants. For this project, they are using Facebook and a cork mural to post stories about the activities and events occurring in their district. The four youngsters are looking for strategies to make their outlet sustainable. “It seems to me that the way we are going to do our journalism in such remote areas is a service to the community, to help them and that they can have a voice and be aware of everything”, she explained to a journalist who visited the Lab in Rioblanco.
See video on this initiative here.