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Violence and Peace in the Print Media: News Discourse and Social Construction of Reality in Colombia
Unformatted Document Text:  discourses. In last months, the events of September, 11 th in the United States, have revived the discussion on whether journalism should take sides, give information for the democratic and public debate, give different perspectives and supply a public service, or stay neutral when in presence of conflicts that endanger the stability of the political system and against the common good, the maximum ethical premise of the profession. New actors of the conflict: between visibility and invisibility With regards to social actors who appear in the macrostructure of the news, it is key to point out that insurgent groups have not only emerged as protagonists of the journalistic discourse but they also have maintained their visibility during the period of the study, above that of the government, the armed forces and civil society. At the same time, there has been an important decrease of media visibility of actors from the international community. These findings could suggest at least three hypotheses. First, the discrete presence of civil society discourses in the news discourse about this conflict may be explained by a lack of social cohesion and identification with the national peace project. Second, the fact that civil society is the population segment that generally becomes victim of abuses, massacres, forced displacements and all the other consequences of the conflict, may reduce the possibilities of taking firmer steps to express to the media its opinion with respect to the actors who are at the negotiating table. Third, it could be argued that the news media may consider that it is more interesting or flashy for their audience to present the verbal reactions of the insurgent groups and the public force than that of those segments of population that constitute the civil society. In the the present study, the lack of a protagonist role of the civil society constitutes an important source of preoccupation in the context of a peace dialogue that, unlike the coverage of other topics, has confronted Colombians with a social reality has marked Colombian daily life during more than half a century. A crucial question in this sense is how far can a journalistic discourse that builds an incomplete or fragmented social reality of the conflict contribute, in the long term, to the formation of a public opinion and a social scenario that could lead to the search of alternatives for a peaceful solution accordingly with the complexity of the conflict? The analysis of discourses about the armed conflict in El Tiempo and El Heraldo reveals that civil society has very little visibility in the texts, and when it happens, it occurs in two ways: a civil society victim of assaults and other type of attacks by the subversives and other armed groups, and a civil society willing to mediate but with very little leverage; However, in those actions related to their participation in the conflict through seminars, conferences and forums about peace, a decrease is observed between 1999 and 2001. This result coincides with previous analyses of the representation of civil society in media. 12 Coverage of the peace process, Discourse on violence 12 See GARCÍA RAYA, Eugenia. “De cercanías y desarticulaciones: Medios de comunicación y proceso de paz en Colombia,”en Proceso de Paz: Ambigüedades de la apertura informativa y directo televisivo”, Bogotá: Fescol, 2000, p.13..

Authors: Obregon, Rafael. and Cura, Marta.
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discourses. In last months, the events of September, 11
th
in the United States, have
revived the discussion on whether journalism should take sides, give information for the
democratic and public debate, give different perspectives and supply a public service, or
stay neutral when in presence of conflicts that endanger the stability of the political
system and against the common good, the maximum ethical premise of the profession.

New actors of the conflict: between visibility and invisibility
With regards to social actors who appear in the macrostructure of the news, it is key to
point out that insurgent groups have not only emerged as protagonists of the journalistic
discourse but they also have maintained their visibility during the period of the study,
above that of the government, the armed forces and civil society. At the same time, there
has been an important decrease of media visibility of actors from the international
community. These findings could suggest at least three hypotheses. First, the discrete
presence of civil society discourses in the news discourse about this conflict may be
explained by a lack of social cohesion and identification with the national peace project.
Second, the fact that civil society is the population segment that generally becomes
victim of abuses, massacres, forced displacements and all the other consequences of the
conflict, may reduce the possibilities of taking firmer steps to express to the media its
opinion with respect to the actors who are at the negotiating table. Third, it could be
argued that the news media may consider that it is more interesting or flashy for their
audience to present the verbal reactions of the insurgent groups and the public force than
that of those segments of population that constitute the civil society.

In the the present study, the lack of a protagonist role of the civil society constitutes an
important source of preoccupation in the context of a peace dialogue that, unlike the
coverage of other topics, has confronted Colombians with a social reality has marked
Colombian daily life during more than half a century. A crucial question in this sense is
how far can a journalistic discourse that builds an incomplete or fragmented social reality
of the conflict contribute, in the long term, to the formation of a public opinion and a
social scenario that could lead to the search of alternatives for a peaceful solution
accordingly with the complexity of the conflict? The analysis of discourses about the
armed conflict in El Tiempo and El Heraldo reveals that civil society has very little
visibility in the texts, and when it happens, it occurs in two ways: a civil society victim of
assaults and other type of attacks by the subversives and other armed groups, and a civil
society willing to mediate but with very little leverage; However, in those actions related
to their participation in the conflict through seminars, conferences and forums about
peace, a decrease is observed between 1999 and 2001. This result coincides with previous
analyses of the representation of civil society in media.
12
Coverage of the peace process, Discourse on violence
12
See GARCÍA RAYA, Eugenia. “De cercanías y desarticulaciones: Medios de comunicación y proceso de
paz en Colombia,”en Proceso de Paz: Ambigüedades de la apertura informativa y directo televisivo”,
Bogotá: Fescol, 2000, p.13..


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