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“No Como Cuento” - Colombian Journalists Fight Fake News

“No Como Cuento” - Colombian Journalists Fight Fake News

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As Colombia looks ahead to next year’s parliamentary and presidential elections, journalists are coming together to fight against fake news. A panel discussion on May 3 in Bogota highlighted the need to carry the discussion about fake news further, with organizers looking to the public and stakeholders for support.

By Colette Davidson

The issue of fake news has become part and parcel for political races, with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the United States leading the pack. That’s why Colombian journalist Camila Zuluaga went to Pedro Vaca Villarreal, the executive director of press freedom organization FLIP, to stress the importance of informing the public about fake news ahead of Colombia’s presidential elections next May.

“We didn’t want what happened in the US to happen in Colombia,” says Zuluaga.

Zuluaga then reached out to journalists from around the country to participate in a video to show their commitment to curbing misinformation. In a series of clips in "No Como Cuento," published on YouTube, more than a dozen Colombian journalists tell viewers that they will do their part to fight fake news.

“It’s the first time in my seven years working at FLIP that a well-known journalist takes the initiative to discuss something like this,” says Pedro of Zuluaga.

Once they had the commitment from journalists, they created a committee and with the help of organizations like FNPI (Fundacion Gabriel Garcia Marquez para el Nuevo periodismo iberoamericano), FESCOL (La Fundación Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung en Colombia), Jorge Tadeo University and WAN-IFRA’s Colombia Media Freedom Committee, they worked to organize a seminar on the issue that would be open to the public. SMS participating media El Espectador in Bogota and La Patria in Manizales, where editor Fernando Alonso Ramirez is an SMS participant, joined the initiative.

Thus the idea was born to hold a conference on fake news and misinformation at Bogota’s Jorge Tadeo University on World Press Freedom Day on May 3. The conference included a panel discussion with Carlos Cortés, former director for Latin America Public Policy at Twitter and Sandra Borda, Dean of Social Sciences at Jorge Tadeo University on how fake news affects media environments. It also used a comedy sketch by members of satirical news website Actualidad Informativa to portray the danger of fake news in a democracy.

“Many people in the audience complained about the media and said we’re guilty of making fake news,” says Zuluaga. “It just shows that there is a lot of fear of politicians and journalists in Colombia.”

Despite the media’s commitment to stamping out fake news, both Vaca Villarreal and Zuluaga realize that journalists alone can’t lead this movement. They also want a commitment from tech platforms, academics and presidential candidates themselves that they will work to tackle fake news. Next week, their informal alliance will meet with members of the private sector in hopes that they can bring more information to the people.

Organizers also plan on taking their movement further afield, with the goal of organizing similar conferences in other cities in Colombia to get the conversation going about the affects of misinformation.

“This issue is going to happen in every election and the goal is to make sure the public has the right information,” says Zuluaga. “If we want to defend democracy, we need to give people the facts.”

The peace process currently underway between FARC rebels and the Colombian government has produced a host of misinformation, says Zuluaga, and with the parliamentary elections to be held next March and the presidential elections in May, Vaca Villarreal says there isn’t much time left to get their message across.

“We have one year to work on this and get the public’s commitment,” he says.


To watch “No Como Cuento,” visit You can also follow the movement on Twitter at #NoComoCuento.


The SMS programme will promote the No Como Cuento initiative in a Master Class in Durban, South Africa during the World News Media Congress, as a model of what journalists can do to commit to fact-checking and vetting information during election periods.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2017-05-31 10:34

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...