This is the controversial bill that would change journalism in Colombia

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Currently, in Colombia, there is a bill that seeks to regulate journalism

|This is the controversial bill that would change journalism in Colombia

The bill, among other things, seeks to create a credential that will be needed to apply to some jobs, which can be accessed only by meeting certain requirements, and an entity with the ability to punish journalists. According to the senators, Richard Aguilar and Jonathan Tamayo, the purpose of the law is to dignify journalistic work, as well as making it a more recognized and better paid profession.

Leer en español: Este es el polémico proyecto de ley que cambiaría el periodismo en Colombia

However, the counterpart of this proposal is the same guild of journalists. The problem lies in something as simple as that stipulated in the Colombian Constitution: freedom of expression. By requiring a credential to develop this work, it prevents many people from exercising it, thus restricting that right.

On the other hand, in an interview with La W, the senator Jonathan Tamayo said, that the creation of the Professional Council of the Social Communicator seeks to guarantee benefits to this group of people, as well as to recognize their work. The drivers of the program refute the senator citing some of the functions of this Council, as they are to apply temporary and definitive suspensions to journalists, verify and issue credentials and keep a record of those who have this credential or can access them.

Journalists are governed by ethical codes that are implicit in the same society, so the question arises as to who would impose what the journalist should or should not do. In this way, in addition to controlling who can and who does not perform journalistic tasks, it would also be limiting what can be talked about.

This is why important associations of journalists such as the Círculo de Periodistas de Bogotá (CPB), the New Ibero-American Journalism Foundation (FNPI), the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP), the Colombian Association of Faculties and University Communication Programs (AFACOM) , among others, have complained about this bill.

These groups have sent a letter to the Congress of the Republic ensuring that the credential and the Council violate fundamental rights and goes against not only the Constitution of Colombia, but also the American Convention on Human Rights.

In addition, they have postulates that are not explicitly determining the trade. For example, according to the letter, they could not apply for the credential "journalists who do not have fifteen years of experience but who, despite practicing journalism, do not obtain 70% of their income from this activity", to which they respond "since when did a journalist's income become a valid criterion to accredit the quality, rigor or importance of journalistic work?"

The Statute of the Journalist

Years ago, in Colombia there was Law 51 of 1975. This law sought to "guarantee the freedom of information, expression and cultural association (...) promoting security and progress in the performance of the journalist".

However, among other things, it required that the person who developed as a journalist should have completed that career, thus excluding many empirical journalists. Also, they had to have a credential, the professional card, which would be equivalent to the one currently proposed and that would be requested in certain jobs.

In 1998, the Constitutional Court declared this law unconstitutional. That is, it abolished it completely, ensuring that it was not needed to guarantee the work and that, on the contrary, it restricted freedom of expression and the press. Special emphasis is placed on article 73 of the Constitution, which states that "journalistic activity will enjoy protection to guarantee their freedom and professional independence".

Read also: Coverage: This is the panorama of journalists threatened in Colombia

Gag Law in journalism

Gag Law (Ley Mordaza) is called any law that ends up restricting fundamental rights, specifically those that have to do with expression, manifestation or information. This is not a specific law, but is a term that has been coined to different law that, for citizens, violate rights of this type.

Although these laws are not explicitly about the journalistic profession, in these terms there are also some laws considered of this type because they are related to these rights.

What is the situation like in Latin America?

In Venezuela, for example, there is the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television (Ley Resorte), which was created in 2004, in the midst of the Chavez regime. This determines a responsibility when it comes to disseminating information. However, and taking IGNORE INTO account the political moment, social responsibility is determined by the State. Likewise, this law obliges all media to transmit institutional messages.

In addition, in 2010 the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media was created, which accompanies the first but also restricts the use of internet and social media, which has created an explicit censorship and violates freedom of expression.

In Argentina, the Audiovisual Communication Law, issued in 2009, was a government campaign that ended up giving a large part of the Government's investment to the channels, radio, and newspapers. This ended, finally, in the creation of official media that ended up biasing the journalistic work.

Likewise, Ecuador, under the mandate of Rafael Correa, created in 2007 the Organic Communication Law. This was also classified as a Gag Law, since it allowed the Executive Branch to control the information disseminated in the media.

Although Correa defended the law as "an instrument that seeks a free and independent press, that informs and communicates, not that defends private interests", as reported by Infobae, ended up deteriorating the climate of press freedom. This law also allowed the creation of the Information and Communication Superintendence as an entity with the capacity to sanction social communicators, as the Professional Council of the Social Communicator claims.

These laws, which are not only present in Latin America but in other parts of the world, such as in Spain, seek to guarantee the securities of journalists. However, they have had great opposition by the same union since they have ended up affecting the freedom of the press and of expression.


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez
Translated from "Este es el polémico proyecto de ley que cambiaría el periodismo en Colombia"