Bogota – The CEO of Agencia Efe, Spain's international news agency, offered praise for Colombian journalism while stressing that reporters in the Andean nation must be careful not to allow the risks they face to lead them into ethical lapses.
Alex Grijelmo commented at an awards ceremony Tuesday night in Bogota where Colombia newsweekly Semana and Brazilian oil giant Petrobras recognized outstanding work by Colombian regional journalists.
Colombia "offers reporters great stories, but also great dangers: many have given their lives to serve their profession," he said.
He added, however, that the risks of practicing journalism in a country wracked by civil strife and gangsterism "do not justify violating ethical standards."
"It is important to expose the poor use of public money, to end the violence. But that fails if we have failed in the media, if we have not given voice to all the concerned parties, if we have not verified the facts, if we base our reporting on a single source," Grijelmo said.
More broadly, he said reporters should not voice opinions in news stories, reserving their personal views for editorials or pieces clearly labeled as commentary.
The Internet, according to the head of the world's largest Spanish-language news agency, "is a garbage dump full of jewels," and the journalist's obligation "consists in distinguishing, discerning, prioritizing and above all, confirming" content found on the Web.
"I speak to you more about risks than realities, and the reality of journalism in Colombia is something with which we can be very satisfied," Grijelmo told the Semana-Petrobras honorees and finalists.
The winners included Libardo Barros, of Barranquilla's El Heraldo newspaper, for a feature on Carnival celebrations that followed destructive flooding.
The award for best columnist went to blogger Jose Gustavo Colorado, while television journalist Oscar Fernando was recognized for a Teleantioquia documentary about deadly environmental consequences of illegal mining.
Recipients were selected by a jury comprising Grijelmo, CNN en Español's Patricia Janiot, photographer Jesus Abad Colorado, Caracol Radio's Nestor Morales and journalist Maria Teresa Ronderos, who consults for Semana and is director of VerdadAbierta.com.