Covering Colombia’s elections with new media but old concerns over press freedom

By Dean Graber

Colombians appear to have been more comfortable with continuity than with change by giving President Álvaro Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, a win with approximately 47 percent of the vote, and putting him into a second-round runoff June 20 with Antanas Mockus, the BBC reports. Several media from around the world were surprised by such a decisive win by Santos, after polls had predicted a tie with Mockus, El Tiempo reports (Spanish).

Colombia Reports notes (in English), “Despite his popularity in the polls and the hype in foreign media, the man who would change everything, Antanas Mockus, did not even receive half the votes his opponent did.”

The race was marked by the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, Global Voices Online explains in posts from May 29 and May 26CNN and the Miami Herald also wrote on the use of social media.

Before Sunday’s election, one of the nation’s leading journalist groups, the Bogotá Journalists Circle (CPB), accused the federal government or threatening freedom of expression and imposing prior censorship by limiting media’s ability to report on issues involving public order (i.e. criminal acts, vote theft), without official confirmation by the government, Caracol Radio and EFE report.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.