The Poynter Institute reports that on Sept. 26, Colombian president Iván Duque posted on Twitter ‘parts of a report’ that he had given to the U.N.’s General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, during the General Assembly in New York that week.
The article discusses how the president was attempting to warn the public about the Venezuelan government, claiming that it was allowing terrorist groups to operate on Venezuelan land. He supplied photos of the land that supposedly “exposed” their compliance, all of which were included in the 128-page report. According to the president, he was posting proof that upheld the idea that his government had found evidence of “official support.” However, due to the diligence of fact checkers, at least two of the photos were found to be out of context (photos used in other reports years ago or not taken in Venezuela), along with misleading content in the actual report. Following the incident, the chief of intelligence and military counterintelligence in Colombia, Oswaldo Pena Bermeo, resigned, stating, “As a general of the Republic, I am aware of the need to answer for my actions and those of my subordinates, and I will act accordingly.”
Articles such as these remind readers that fact checking is an essential component to understanding the world of news that surrounds them. In an age of intense media and potentially incorrect information, it is important that consumers not assume that everything is true, but first verify the facts. As the world finds itself in a sensitive place, especially politically so, one must be reflective of how the news being presented might try to influence certain views. Presently, Venezuela finds itself in political turmoil under the rule of President Nicolas Maduro. As millions have attempted to flee his regime, migration across the border to Colombia has increased exponentially.
According to The Poynter Institute, “His presumed intent was to reinforce the idea that his government had collected evidence that Venezuala was offering support for ‘ELN (National Liberation Army) terrorist groups and dissidents of former FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia),’ people willing to ‘destabilize Colombia and control drug trafficking, illegal mineral extraction, contraband and other crimes.’” In such a sensitive time, as a man with a powerful influence, moreover as the leader of an entire nation, it is vital that the information he and his regime share be verified and correct. The political views that could be impacted and consequences that might follow are important to consider. He could instill fear into citizens as they might link immigrants to the potentially dangerous people Venezuela is supposedly supporting.
Takeaway: More than ever, it is important that consumers of information make sure that the information being presented is within context and truthful. Simply because something looks real and is coming from what should be a reliable source of information doesn’t necessarily mean it is true. This article supports fact checking, and encourages exploration of the truth.