Urgent Action: Protest NBC Nightly News Report

CSN Home | This Month's News | Send E-mail to NBC Nightly News | Read CSN's letter


On September 6th the NBC Nightly News carried a special assignment segment reported by Jim Miklazwiski.  Mr. Miklazwiski proudly informed the viewers for the first time of the presence of American military advisers training the Colombian army to fight the Drug War.  His report emphasized the importance of  boosting U.S. military aid to Colombia on behalf of the drug issue.  Miklazwiski interviewed drug czar Barry McCaffrey, Republican Representatives Dan Burton and Benjamin Gilman, and U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Curtis Kamman.  Each gentleman emphasized the importance of giving military aid to Colombia.  Kamman said that in now, without communist countries aiding them, the rebels don't have Moscow or Havana to grant money but rather the rebels rely on the drug trade for income.  Colombia President Andres Pastrana was also interviewed and, speaking in English, also stressed the need of U.S. military aid to Colombia to fight the drug traffickers.  The segment, of course, focused on this "narco-guerrilla" theory. What is most striking is that this broadcast was aired right after the massacres in East Timor by paramilitaries who killed civilians while the Indonesian army remained inactive.  At no point were the paramilitaries in Colombia mentioned in Miklazwiski's report, nor their involvement in drug trafficking or the relationship to the drug trafficking Colombian army.

The Colombia Support Network feels the need to do an urgent action on this issue to oppose the biased and shallow analysis of the Colombian civil war.

Below is the letter that the CSN's national office has sent to NBC. Please write  your comments and reactions to Mr. Tom Brokaw, nightly@msnbc.com.

Or if you prefer, write to:
NBC Viewer Relations
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112
(212) 664 2333

Letter from CSN National Office to NBC Nightly News

NBC Nightly News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112

Dear Mr. Brokaw :

On behalf of the Colombia Support Network, we wish to express our distress with the report presented by journalist Jim Miklazwiski from Colombia on the NBC Nightly News broadcast of September 6, 1999.

Miklazwiski's report failed to take a deeper look at the situation in Colombia, which is a 30-year-old civil conflict and not simply a "Drug War" between the Colombian military and the guerrillas. In fact, the Colombian military, their extremely violent paramilitary partners, and the guerrillas (such as the FARC and ELN) are fighting for economic control over Colombia, which has a wealth of untapped resources in gold, oil, coal, and pristine rainforests, among others. Caught between these violent groups are innocent civilians who continue to be murdered at an alarming rate almost 4,000 people last year, and more than 185 massacres between January and June of this year already.

The conflict in Colombia did and would exist even without the drug trade. Rather, the drug trade serves to complicate the war.The root cause of Colombia's war is the highly unequal distribution of economic resources in the society, where a small elite has enriched itself at the cost of the great majority of Colombian citizens.

As shown in Miklazwiski's report, the United States is funneling hundreds of millions of dollars as well as training, reconnaissance equipment, and weapons to the Colombian military which, is facilitating the activities of the paramilitaries as occurred in Mapiripan Meta department, among numerous examples of such collaboration. Regardless of what the United States true intentions are whether to fight the "Drug War" or to protect its development interests in Colombia they are giving aid to known murderers in the Colombian military  which has supported the actions of paramilitary forces .This aid will only fuel their brutality, which in turn gives arguments to the guerrillas for maintaining their hard-line military stance (with their equally appalling human rights record). The human rights violations committed by these groups have been documented repeatedly by international groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as Colombian NGOs.

Even more outrageous, Miklazwiski's report completely failed even to mention the existence of the extremely violent paramilitaries, who are believed to be responsible for a whopping 80% of all political murders in Colombia. It is ironic that Miklazwiski's report followed a story on the paramilitary violence in East Timor without mentioning similar violence against the people in Colombia. Even major American newspapers such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post have come out against the paramilitary violence in Colombia. Why not NBC?

Equally disturbing, Miklazwiski's report does not mention the fact that the Colombian military and the paramilitaries that receive their support are seriously involved in the drug trade.

We challenge NBC to present the full story of the situation in Colombia. We will be happy to arrange for meetings with community leaders and NGOs in Colombia who can provide first-hand information to your reporters.




John I. Laun, President

P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701

(608) 257-8753
(608) 255-6621 fax