News Corp.'s recruitment of former Colombian president criticized

By Ian Tennant

The nomination of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, accused of knowing about illegal wiretapping of journalists, judges and political opponents, to the board of News Corp. has raised eyebrows in the United States.

“The optics of this are terrible,” said Adam Isacson, from the Washington Office on Latin America, in an interview with Bloomberg. “When people talk about the dark side of Uribe, this is one of the main scandals that sullied his reputation.”

Isacson was referring to accusations that Uribe had knowledge of illegal wiretapping that took place in Colombia in 2009. The former president denied the accusations but he was denounced by Hollman Morris for using the televised court proceedings as a way to lie about the prominent Colombian journalist's character.

News Corp. has seen its own share of controversy, currently embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal that has rocked the British newspaper industry. Rupert Murdoch responded to public criticism by shutting down the 168-year-old tabloid News of the World, which was at the center of the scandal in July 2011.

In a statement published by the Financial Times, Murdoch called Uribe “a transformative figure who saved his country’s democratic institutions, revitalized its economy and restored the security of its people."

It is expected that Uribe, if he is formally appointed to the News Corp. board, will be an asset to the massive, international media company that recently launched MundoFox, a Spanish language television station, in collaboration with one of Colombia’s largest media operations, RCN Television SA, Bloomberg reported. Francisco Santos, who heads the RCN radio news division, was Uribe’s vice president.

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.