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Colombia’s recent high-level gay sex scandal that has caused somewhat of a sensation brings into question, yet again, journalism’s role as a watchdog with the public’s interests at its heart (it’s always been a grand theory that).

Outgoing Colombian police chief Rodolfo Palomino passes on the baton ...

Outgoing Colombian police chief Rodolfo Palomino (moustache) passes on the baton. What exactly is he passing on though?

This latest episode is basically being viewed from two angles. One being that the journalists, chief among them Vicky Dávila, who revealed a video of the now former Interior vice-minister Carlos Ferro speaking (and a little more) with a police officer about performing lewd homosexual acts did the state some amount of service. This ‘Comunidad del Anillo’ (Fellowship of the Ring) as it’s being dubbed — an alleged gay prostitution network in the police force which has also led to the resignation of its chief General Rodolfo Palomino — cannot be tolerated in such circles.

The other view is that the broadcasting and publishing of this was nothing more than an attempt at character assassination on the powerful public figures at its centre — an attempt that proved successful. Their sex lives have little to do, or at least should have little to do, with their professional lives.

You can make a case for both outlooks.

Taking the first viewpoint on board, that both Ferro and Palomino portrayed a public image of happily married, heterosexual men can be seen as a grand act of deception towards the Colombian public. As is said of any aspiring US president, it appears most Colombians like to know where and with who their public figures sleep at night, and ideally that should be with their husband or wife. Whatever about the legal status of prostitution in Colombia (for the record it is legal in certain ‘tolerated zones’), the oldest profession in the book isn’t seen in a positive light among the conservative majority, even more so when it’s homosexual in nature.

Yet taking it from the opposite angle (sorry!), what these or any people do for sexual pleasure — as long as it’s legal, obviously — should not even be a public concern, let alone a resigning matter. They should be judged by their professional performance, no more no less. This is the view President Santos, himself a former journalist, appears to side with.

Another thing to consider in all this are the beliefs of the journalists in question. As mentioned, the main protagonist is Vicky Dávila. Being a Catholic she may view homosexuality in a very negative light, that it is fundamentally wrong, something that a good number of strict and not-so-strict Colombian Catholics and Christians believe.

In such a scenario, there may have been a crusade element, bordering on vindictive, in her pursuing this story and bringing it to light. That is to ask, did she have a genuine public interest in revealing this — a ‘true journalist’s’ raison d’être — or was it more personal? Whatever the case she, like her ‘targets’, has paid a high price for her actions. She’s now out of a job.

Official investigations have begun into the ‘Fellowship of the Rings’ to ascertain what crimes, if any, have been committed. Considering the daily life or death problems that Colombia faces, alongside more crippling corruption issues, you could see this whole episode as ‘much ado about practically nothing’.
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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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