This summer I was lucky enough to spend two months in Bogota, Colombia, learning more about what the situation is for journalists.
A few team members got the ball rolling in late June for an index of freedom of expression in Colombia. I got to be part of the process for a day. We talked with journalist, lawyers, professors and bureaucrats. We talked about what would be important to include and how best to phrase it.
Six months later, there’s now an updated tool to compare how different departments in the country (US equivalent would be states) compare in terms of exercising freedom of press, speech and expression.
Proyecto Antonio Nariño evaluated the aformentioned using fourcategories:
- Access to information
- Environment to work as a journalist (evaluating the political, legal and professional contexts surrounding a journalist).
- Direct aggressions
A few things stuck out to me while going through the index in regards to accessing information. When we ask for information or documents from a government office, there’s a decent likelihood we can get them, or at the very least, we’re more certain they exist.
Not so in Colombia. Twenty percent of departments don’t have a public information registry or database. Ninety percent don’t have a clear way to organize documents or archive them.
Talk about making journalism and those data stories tricky when there’s not even a clear way to making sure that it’s there.
It’s hard to keep the government accountable in any country. But when those documents are hard to access, or simply not kept, it’s nearly impossible to do so.
Another element that stood out: Sixty-three percent of journalists knew a colleague who had changed their editorial position because the organization received advertising from the government. Colombian journalism is also finding ways to stay afloat financially.