Last week, Italian weekly L’Espresso published an article praising the great changes Bogotá has been experiencing during the last 12 years, more or less, when Colombian capital city has been ruled by three good mayors. The article, The Bogotá miracle, was written by Antonio Carlucci, and lists some of the reforms and good things these politicians (mathematician and philosopher Antanas Mockus, economist Enrique Peñalosa and former union leader Luis Eduardo Garzón) have introduced here, as well as the wonderful places you can find in this big city.
As usual, Colombian media praises these pieces which encourage foreign turists to visit (and spend their money at) this troubled country. Néstor Pongutá, press attaché at Colombian embassy in Roma and correspondent for a Cali newspaper, picked up the L’Espresso article at El Tiempo, though he was kind of “creative” and invented a lot of sentences Carlucci never wrote about Bogotá. Both pieces called Colombia-based Italian blogger Doppiafila’s attention. At first, he thought the internet version of the article was edited, so he asked for someone in Italy to send him the print article scanned, to compare it with both the online piece and Pongutá’s article. He got the scanned article and realized Pongutá made some inventions:
[Pongutá quoted L’Espresso as saying:] “A mayor who dressed as Superman and worked with mimes called Antanas Mockus, then another one who covered the city on bicycle called Enrique Peñalosa, and the current mayor, son to a former house servant, has achieved what no one could imagine: to make Bogotá a touristic attraction”
Let’s recognize Néstor Pónguta that -indeed- the L’Espresso article talks on the three mayors. But:
- it never states Bogotá is a touristic attraction;
- it never says Peñalosa traveled on bike all over the city (instead it talks about his decision to build tracks for bikes, which is not the same thing. […]
- it never speaks about Garzón’s mother!
O-lu, from Sociología para novatos, adds two other inventions:
While Doppiafila thinks he seized the opportunity to express his own opinion about Bogotá instead reporting someone else’s, O-lu thinks Pongutá is mocking El Tiempo readers and ask for explanations from him and the paper, which is Colombia’s main and only non-tabloid national newspaper. And I’m with her… and with Doppiafila when he states “[Pongutá] does an awful service for his city, his country and his readers. And gives a terrible example”. The original article is pretty nice and true, so where’s the need to ‘retouch it’ for Colombian audiences? Do they think that, as most Colombians don’t fully understand Italian, we are stupid and can’t wonder if what they are quoting is true? As if the article could not be accessed online… Maybe they never thought a curious Italian blogger living here would find out this lie and report it for his readers…
Colombian mainstream media, as it happens elsewhere, do manipulate information. According to O-lu, the Pongutá case is not the exception but the rule. And, as O-lu, I must ask why Néstor Pongutá invents [and lies]? Manipulating an article who speaks well of Bogotá. They’re so low… And later they’re asking whey no one believes them… Can’t wait for them to finally sell El Tiempo…