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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

New digital project in Colombia seeks to train, connect journalists who cover armed conflict



With the purpose of helping journalists from different regions and reaches of the country improve their coverage of the conflict and post-conflict in Colombia, and the goal of creating a network of colleagues that specialize on these issues, several organizations have joined to launch a new digital project, Plataforma de Periodismo (“Journalism Platform” in Spanish).

The project is coordinated by the Colombian association of journalists Consejo de Redacción (CdR) and counts among its supporters organizations like Duetsche Welle Akademie and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).

 “We saw the need to create a digital space to train, inform, and reflect on these topics,” said project coordinator Edilma Prada Céspedes in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “Our main goal is for journalists from all regions cover armed conflict, peace initiatives and other dynamics occurring in Colombia in a responsible manner.”

The webpage aims to be a training space that will use certain stories as case studies, interviews with authors who will discuss their coverage with users, digital tools, and a section about new vocabulary that emerged in the context of the conflict.

“Almost 90 percent of this content has a focus on journalistic formation. But we know that it may be useful for university instructors, journalism students, and the general public who may be interested in these topics,” Prada said.

Besides the content for general users, the platform will also create a community that is made up exclusively of journalists that cover these topics. These journalists will have access to materials and training, which will include topics like personal and digital safety.

“The main reason for this, however, is that we all get to know each other and collaborate. Establishing communication channels that facilitate an exchange of information, for example, when a journalist is in a different region from that which he is used to covering,” Prada said.

The site’s final goal is to give journalists the tools to generate quality coverage of these topics. This is because, even though Colombian journalists have years of experience covering conflicts, the creators of the platform saw certain weak areas in the coverage due to a lack of training regarding the changing dynamics of conflict and peace in the country.

"We journalists are used to covering war but we do not know how to cover peace,” Prada said. “We are presenting alternative projects, we are making a roadmap using journalists’ perspective of the violence in Colombia as a starting point, but not focusing on the violence, but rather helping start other dynamic in the country where we can contribute something. This without denying the conflicts that are going on. Because the conflict does not just encompass armed violence, but also poverty, social inequality, covering the indigenous populations, among other things. Besides, in each part of the country there are different dynamics going on and we journalists should prepare ourselves to take on, report about, and explain all these situations, the majority of which are clearly derived from the armed conflict that Colombia has endured for more than 50 years.”

The project has been in the works since May last year. Since then the team has visited three departments of the country to talk with regional journalists about the topics and tools they would like to see discussed in the site.

The group hopes to have its home page up by November and organize several regional and national launching events. Prada estimated that all of the website’s content should be online by 2014.

Plataforma de Periodismo will have three full-time journalists but with also collaborate with other entities like the FLIP, the Pontifical University of Javeriana, CdR and news website La Silla Vacía, among others.

"We are still looking for resources through national or international cooperation because our objective is to be able to offer these trainings without charge, especially for journalists from regions where the salaries don’t tend to be the best,” Prada said.



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