An excellent interview I ran across with documentary filmmaker Unai Aranzadi, that I decided to translate and post in full.
There is a Colombia that is very present in the media, one whose major problem is the kidnappings carried out by the FARC guerilla. However, although not as known, there is another Colombia where hitmen assassinate union leaders and journalists, or paramilitary groups violently end the lives of activists or farmers. According to the UN, since 1984 until now, over 2,800 union members have been violently killed, which means an average of 100 per year.
Journalist Unai Aranzadi has been showing this face of Colombia for years, the one marginalized from public opinion. A decade ago, Aranzadi decided to arm himself with a camera and traveling to the planet’s hotspots, covering conflicts in Iraq, Zimbabwe, Bolivia or Somalia, among other places, for networks like BBC, CNN or Al-Jazeera.
Now, he has just finished his latest work “Invisible Colombia”, which will soon be available on the internet through IndependentDocs (http://www.independentdocs.com/index.html).
1. First of all, tell us a bit about the documentary. What will we find?
The documentary is called “Invisible Colombia” and its a full-length film, slightly over an hour. It is a very ambitious Project because it not only reveals the causes of the conflicto that corporate media and the European political caste do not show, but it also brings to light the most realistic and reasonable peace proposals. This project has been carried out thanks to Mundubat, a Basque organization that has been carrying out the communications work that commercial information media have stop doing for quite some time, making it patent that the important stories are not always made by he who has more but by he who wants more.
The film, which is backed by plenty of investigative journalism, sheds light on all those state crimes that the Spanish press, which has many economic interests in Colombia, does not show. To do that, I have travelled for two months to the most war-affected regions and documented for the first time the process of making a false positive (an extrajudicial killing) and the humanitarian cost of Spanish multinationals (which generate migrations and death in impoverished sectors). Anyways, if somebody wants to know why there is a war in Colombia, this is your movie. We hope to upload it on the internet, and give copies to whomever asks for them for public showings.
2. You have carried out several assignments in Colombia. Which do you believe are the causes of the Colombian conflict and where should the solution lie?
The causes are in inequality and in the violent relation that has been stablished from the beginning between the government with its subjects. In Colombia, the 1% of landowners own 80% of all productive land, and there are five and a half million displace; it is the American country with the highest inequality between rich and poor. This has been this way since the country’s independence in the XIXth Century, when the existing power generated wars and established its own system, bipartisanism, to halt access to the masses to political decisions. And currently in Colombia, when somebody, under great risk, dares to create and alternative democratic movement to reach power, that somebody is murdered. There are extraordinarily cruel facts, like the annihilation of an entire party, like it happened to Union Patriotica in the 80s.
In less tan ten years, the state murdered some 5 thousand members, including elected coucilmembers, senators and presidential candidates, without anybody ever being punished for it. But also currently, anybody who is critical of the status quo is killed. Union members, social leaders, indigenous people, human rights activists, farmers, journalists, priests, lawyers or members of leftist parties are executed without their country even pausing to remember them. This tradition of massacring the people in several ways for many decades has led to the arm uprising of certain sectors of society and to the impossibility of demanding rights without losing your life. The FARC, for example, were born as a resistance to being evicted from their lands, that is, it is the war of the state against the people that created the guerilla, and not the other way around.
3. Colombian women have also been a protagonist in some of your documentaries. What is the role of women in the Colombian conflict?
Women are dealt with in a variety of ways by all armed sectors without exception and this is why I titled “Enfrentadas” (dealt with, antagonized) my earlier documentary. However, we should distinguish two groups that are especially lethal for women. One is the state that upholds a machoist system, and the other is paramilitarism, which makes them a disposable sexual exploitation product.
On the other hand, it is important to point out that, at least since a few years, most pro-human rights movements, are coordinated by and even led by women and it is to them that paramilitaries like “Los Rastrojos”, “Los Urabeños” and “Las Aguilas Negras” are mainly targeted. These are almost daily deaths that are hidden by the builders of public opinion. If for each of them we gave them just one percent of the attention given to to Cuba’s “Ladies in White” maybe we would save lives, but no, these women are abandoned to their luck facing state violence and its paramilitary arm. Their courage and their capacity to build society is admirable. I have seen them armed with just reason in front of public force in humanitarian spaces in San Jose de Apartado or in Curvarado. I have also seen them in the Indian human rights struggle of the Cauca and against human trafficking and female murders in Potumayo. Although it isn’t said, they suffer the war even more than men, and we should view them as made equally vulnerable, and not as a vulnerable gender.
4. What is the current policy of the Colombian government to face and solve the conflict?
Santos at the moment is not for peace, he is for war. The murder of commander Alfonso Cano, who emphasized to his death the need for a peace process makes this clear, as does the fact that he minimizes, even protects, the 14 thousand paramilitaries that continue to kill and extort. On the other hand, there is a very worrying fact that, since it is something generated from Power, has much echo in the Spanish media. It concerns the new “victims law” and the “land restitution law”, A much-haild panacea that Santos is broadcasting as a generous step taken by the government. Firstly, such laws are inapplicable, because the land that is recognized as returnable for the displaced is a third of the real land, as it was proven in a constitutional court, and secondly, because the victims that this crooked law recognizes does not include extrajudicial killings (which account for 3 thousand deaths, according to prosecutors), forced disappearances (57 thousand, according to the United Nations) or the crimes committed by new paramilitaries that emerged after the false demobilization of 2005.
Also, the government, proven author of a multitude of crimes against humanity, does not recognize its role as a responsible party, but as that which subsidizes selected victims. In one of the interview in my documentary “Invisible Colombia”, anthropologist Alfredo Molano says that the biggest obstacle for peace in the country is the enriched army, that thanks to Washington has budget unprecedented in Latin America. Researcher Danilo Rueda also states an interesting fact that goes against the militaristic logic provided by the Ministry of Defense. They say that eliminating each guerilla member costs a certain amount of days and money, and if it is calculated just as they say, ending the guerilla would take another 50 years of deaths and billions of dollars spent. Therefore, negotiation is the only reasonable way towards social and military peace, even though certain players who live comfortably without putting their sons in the front lines, do not want to recognize this.
5. You have stated that the journalism you do is one that walks with the people. Do you think that we are lacking this type of journalism?
Yes, I have almost stopped consuming international journalism because I see very little reporters identifying the uncomfortable causes of oppression. They seem to be much closer to the editorial needs of big corporations than the pressing popular needs. They tell them “now to Libya to say this”, and everyone goes to Libya to say this, “no to such place to say that” and everyone to that place to say that. What’s most fascinating is that they believe that they are carrying out journalism without being political. Yes, it’s true, there are more people travelling than ever, but in my opinion, following the agenda that is given to them, with a lot of fear of expressing themselves freely or critically. It’s like if you are talking about the crisis and stick to the banks, without denouncing the policies that allow banks to behave this way. To me, talking about violence or poverty without clearly speaking about the reasons that generate them, is to exploit misery, or said in another way, it is to do to journalism what Angelina Jolie or Ladi Di did to activism. Why? Because you stick to the sensationalist impact of the starving child and do not point to the system that starves him.
I could give you many examples that are seen daily in newspapers and televisión, such as those that talk about prostitution without talking about patriarchy, or others that talk about interventionism without calling it what historians have called it for millenia, that is, imperialism. These superficial interpretations of reality are as banal and repeated by certain journalists and editors that people have caught on and naturally have lost faith in journalism or the newspapers. I think that we should not generate indifference or compassion, but anger, response, indignation, the desire to change what is unjust because we have done our jobs as reporters by pointing out the roots of the problems, no matter the cost or who falls. The best foreign correspondents of all time, those who everyone copies, did this in their bold chronicles. I’m talking about people like John Reed or Jack London, who because they were socialists or communists are not quoted by the media elites that mark the boundaries of journalistic sense.
6. From the point of view of journalistic coverage. Are there wars that are more “commercial” than others? What do you think of the agenda of big media in this sense?
Practically the whole of the media, be it radio, television or written press, are businesses. And their purpose as businesses is to make money. They were born out of capital and making more capital is their aim. What are they fundamentally? Well, capitalists, which is why their editorial line will be focused on articulating the speech that is profitable, be it neoliberal or conservative. It is a scientific fact to state that journalists, themes and focuses coincide or adapt to this political line, which will be absorbed by them, but all else will be left out. Do you know of any prized leftist war reporter? I don’t.
For example, if you talk about the Colombian war you will speak highly of the government, because it favors our dealings with BBVA, Telefonica and Repsol, companies that spend millions of euros in advertisement and companies where the directors own stock. If you give cover story to a Cuban blogger without a visa like Yuani Sanchez and don’t mention the 18 Honduran journalists killed after the coup it is because of something. Cuba is not capitalist, and in Honduras, the coup leaders are in favor of “free markets” and against ALBA. Anyways, the cases are as abundant as evident for anybody who has eyes and a conscience. In Libia we saw it clearly, people who made propaganda in favor of the NATO bombing made a very good business. On the contrary, if anybody was against the intervention, where you they collect for publishing? The right and its sole speech has practically everything, and it is very difficult to survive outside of their economic greenhouse. I don’t how long I’ll be able to make a living out of this…
7. You’ve been in several countries in conflict. What is your way of travel and of making that type of journalism that you do? How do you work?
I work in absolute precariousness, and I’ve never been a wage earner. I have suffered because I don’t have insurance, or influencial alliances, but I consider myself lucky for being able to make the type of free journalism that I dreamt of. Thanks to not having any bosses and travelling the cheapest way possible, I’ve been able to know countries from the bottom up, not top bottom like it is done many times in journalism, like it or not and here I include myself, which smells much like colonialism.
With these limitations, which are sometimes virtues, I document the reality that I perceive, though photographs, films and writings. My work has been broadcast in all types of media, from Canal+ to Mexico’s La Jornada or broadcasters in Great Britain or Dubai, although I’m also proud of to be published in informative resistance media such as you find on the internet, that which publishes the information that is banned by big media. I should also add that lately and in these times of crisis, my archive is providing for me, since these are hundreds of tapes of fifteen conflicts in four continents. If you step in front of European news channels for a few hours, you will most probably find my sequences, even if they aren’t attributed.
8. Do you think that an average Spanish citizen is well informed about international affairs and why?
He is not, but neither is the German citizen. Firstly, because it is simply impossible to be updated on everything. That’s an ambition that’s difficult to satisfy and it upholds a logic of an informationally bulimic society. Yes, we have to assume part of this, I mean that it is normal that a lady getting home after a long workday will not have much time or eagerness to inform herself on what is happening in the rest of the planet. We’re human. Now, what’s worrying is that little information that trickles through conventional channels is massively biased towards neoliberalism. We know that there are only two world agencies that feed practically the totality of Western media: Reuters and Associated Press, the first British and the second, American. You draw your own conclusions about what agendas, what focuses and what parameters they bring…
On the other hand, in the case of international sections in Spanish media, what diversity are we talking about? Editorial differences between Vocento, Prisa, Grupo Zeta or Unidad Editorial are absolutely inexistent. They all say the same. And what do they say? That NATO bombs are humanitarian and those by others, terrorist. That capitalism is synonymous with democracy, that Uribe and Santos are good guys and that Chavez and Putin are bad guys. As an alternative to their unified vision, I believe the internet plays a fundamental role, to which I would add community radio and television stations, because in some parts of the country they have very valuable proposals. I’m talking about having Subsaharian immigrants in a humble studio talking about African wars or Palestinian or Hondureans denouncing from an occupied home the crimes of the state. They are not only the people, but they are also firsthand accounts that you will never see in La Vanguardia, Punto Radio or Antena 3.
9. Is there any future for young journalists that are now starting up? Any advice to them?
There is more prepared youth now and more eager than ever. The world is filled with stories and challenges that demand to be told, so the stage is fascinating, because all the conditions for great stories are given. Now, there’s an important but, both the public and the private sector will tell us that there’s no money.
In this sence, I see journalism as sort of a artisan material, that in order for it to be significant, it has to be very elaborate. From there you get a contradiction, since who could survive doing special reports that require time and energy? More often the middle and higher classes, who have their basic needs met, in addition to, logically, the usual payroll collaborators. It’s unfair. Once again, the majorities who are dispossessed of resources will remain as simple spectators of their own history. These young people from underprivileged classes which don’t stop growing, will not describe their world, but once again, their own stories as well as those of the rest will be transmitted to them. Facing this inequality, I am a great defender of public media. It isn’t a utopia. It works just as well in Sweden as in Venezuela.
Lastly, it seems important to highlight that it won’t be by chance that the current model of journalism will succumb at the same time as capitalism. The crisis is not whether it’s in paper or digital, if it’s freelance or by payroll. The crisis of journalism is one of values, but professions hate self-criticism. Look at how they crucified Robert Fisk for saying some truths about reporting that those who live it and know the terrain recognize immediately…
I believe that as long as explaining war is reduced to the show of “bang, bang” in the fashionable conflict, or while hunger is presented as a fact without responsible politicians in the north and as long as royalty is an untouchable subject, journalism will continue to be fleeting and the steneography of the system. On the contrary, if a rebellious youthcomes willing to take back the better sense of the word journalism, who is that willing to free persons and their people, the future will be bright, regardless who that affects. Believing in yourself, not being dependent of herds, and especially, specialize.
Original source: http://www.publico.es/internacional/427 ... ndignacion
"It does not suffice to reject the error; we must overcome it, explain it and outgrow it." - Antonio Labriola
To anyone who is interested in the history and the actual situation of Colombia:
Watch this documentary, called "The Red Dance"(El baile rojo) about FARC, the Communist Party, the era of UNION PATRIOTICA and the struggle of the working class and people of Colombia against the oligarchs, fascist politicians and their imperialist supporterss:
The Paris Communards struggled and died in the defense of their ideas. The banners of the revolution and of socialism are not surrendered without a fight. Only cowards and the demoralized surrender — never Communists and other revolutionaries.
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