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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Colombia's rebels drop 'news bombshells'
The FARC's Bolivarian Movement homepage
The Internet has become a new focus for Colombia's rebels
Clandestine radio has played a crucial role in Colombia's conflict for the last 20 years, helping the armed groups to spread their propaganda to a mainly guerrilla and peasant audience.

More recently, a number of Internet sites have appeared offering Colombians a chance to communicate their concerns directly to the rebel and paramilitary organisations that claim to be fighting in their name.

A US Agency for International Development (USAID) field report has recently identified the media as a major focus in the conflict.


USAID is strengthening networks of independent community radio stations and journalists committed to using neutral, non-inflammatory language

Office of Transition Initiatives

The Bogota newspaper El Espectador says that 15 FARC blocs were already broadcasting La Voz de la Resistencia on both FM and SW in January 2001, when the government granted the FARC a demilitarised zone in the south as a site for peace talks.

'News bombshells'

The FARC say the radio is another battlefront, which they claim helps the peace process by explaining to Colombians - through news bombshells - the true interests of all the parties.

The army now airs 53 radio stations and the police run 30
The government aim to 'jam' clandestine stations while the army hunts them down
Archived radio reports can be heard at www.radioresistencia.com.

The Cuban news agency Prensa Latina highlights the growing audience of young Colombians the FARC are said to be attracting. Part of this success is attributed to revolutionary play lists and a lack of advertising.

In July, FARC commander Raul Reyes told Prensa Latina that transmissions to the capital will begin soon, "based on successful tests that will guarantee coverage of almost eight million inhabitants who are being misinformed".

According to clandestineradio.com, since 1999 the government has attempted to counter rebel propaganda by broadcasting "black" clandestine stations under the name El Pueblo Responde.

Broadcasts are timed to interfere with or "jam" guerrilla newscasts. The station has been heard playing popular "vallenato" music over La Voz de la Resistencia.

USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives is also busy, "strengthening networks of independent community radio stations and journalists committed to using neutral, non-inflammatory language".

Web wars

The FARC also have a Spanish-language web site at www.farc-ep.org, which was established in February 2001 and is still under construction.

The military commander and the president are shown as puppets controlled by the FARC
Paramilitaries are opposed to government talks with left-wing rebels

In July, the United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) - a right-wing paramilitary organization - announced the restructuring of their official web site at www.colombialibre.org.

They invite visitors to the site to send in "their complaints and concerns, expressions of solidarity and regular voluntary economic support".

The AUC has grown in both influence and popularity as the conflict intensifies. The BBC correspondent in Bogota, Jeremy McDermott, says that polls suggest up to 10 per cent of the population support what they see as a semi-legitimate army.

The web site provides a broad base of information, from the text of the group's constitution to an organizational chart of the Central Command, weekly editorials and a political cartoon section.

Visitors are encouraged to give feedback by e-mail. Most letters are anonymous, often signed "A Colombian citizen" or "A sympathiser".

That may be due to fear.

In Colombia, many killings by all the armed groups are justified on the grounds that those targeted were "collaborating" with one of the opposing factions.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

14 Aug 01 | Americas
Colombia alarmed by 'IRA link'
29 May 01 | Americas
FARC rebels blamed for killings
07 May 01 | Americas
Colombia captures right-wing leader
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Colombia
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