MIAMI —Latino leaders from more than 20 local advocacy groups have denounced the spread of misinformation in South Florida Spanish-language media, warning in an open letter that “hateful rhetoric can have deadly consequences.”
Since a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, resulting in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer, a number of popular Spanish-language AM radio stations and YouTube shows have amplified conspiracy theories about the riot, and disseminated unfounded allegations of voter fraud.
In the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack, a listener used an afternoon show on WWFE’s La Poderosa 670 AM to advertise her plan to lead a caravan of Miami-based Trump supporters to Washington for the planned protests. Though the listener in question, Caridad Gomez, wasn’t part of the group that attacked the Capitol, she raised the prospect of continuing disturbances in rejection of Biden’s win on her way back to South Florida.
“This was only the appetizer,” she said. “We are not going to take it.”
In the open letter penned by progressive groups, signatories are calling on Spanish-language outlets to curb the spread of misinformation by implementing more rigorous fact-checking processes, and by taking steps to hold pundits accountable.
“The violent insurrection (at) the U.S. Capitol was an outcome of disinformation and hate-filled rhetoric. It really highlighted the need for us as Latino leaders to step up and call out some of the Spanish-language outlets that have been failing to fact check content, and allowing the promotion of hate speech and positions that have no factual basis,” said Andrea Mercado, co-executive director of Florida Rising, a nonprofit organization that works to increase the voting and political power of minority groups in Florida.
In Mercado’s view, public condemnation of misinformation in Spanish-language media is necessary to shine a light on discourse that often goes unchecked.
“I think in many ways Spanish-language outlets think that they can fly under the radar, that mainstream English outlets will be the ones held to a higher standard of journalistic integrity,” said Mercado. “We are really calling on the community to come together and demand a more respectful discourse that’s rooted in fact. .. It’s impossible for us to have a democratic discourse when people are living in totally different realities.”
Also included in the list of recommendations from Latino organizations: a call for greater diversity in Spanish-language programming, and for the inclusion of “more Afro-Latino voices in front of and behind the camera.” Advocates argue showcasing more diverse perspectives would lead to fairer coverage.
Among those advocates is Ana Sofia Peláez, executive director of Miami Freedom Project, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting progressive causes. She explained that Spanish-language media’s influential role in immigrant-heavy South Florida warrants greater oversight of the programming.
“Part of the assimilation process is you almost think ‘Oh, (radio in Spanish) is something my parents listen to, or it’s something my grandparents listen to.’ ”
But “Spanish-language media is important and it’s fundamental to South Florida and this demographic and this community in a way that you don’t experience in a different city or in a different context. So for us to not give it that attention or engage with it is problematic. It is just as important as Fox or CNN.”
Other leaders who signed the letter represent organizations like the Florida Immigrant Coalition, United We Dream and Alianza for Progress.
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