Since its launch in March 2009, NED grantee La Silla Vacía (The Empty Seat) has developed from a pilot initiative into one of the most consulted media outlets in Colombia. Utilizing an innovative approach that blends journalistic coverage, think tank-style analysis, and interactive tools for users, La Silla Vacía has helped to transform what online media platforms look like in Colombia today.
La Silla Vacía focuses on the stories and events that shape Colombia’s political landscape, as well as the elected officials, government representatives and other individuals who influence the country’s development, rather than just reporting on daily headlines. Shortly after launching, online readership achieved a broad base of 9.4 million visits from a total of 1.4 million different users. Today, La Silla Vacía ranks fourth nationally, outranked only by El Tiempo, El Espectador and Semana (the country’s two most prominent newspapers and weekly magazine, respectively).
In 2012, La Silla Vacía launched an initiative entitled Proyecto Rosa (Project Rosa), documenting the case of Rosa Amelia Hernández, a victim of Colombia’s internal armed conflict who became a civil society leader. In 2006, Rosa was evicted and displaced from her land by state police and paramilitaries who stripped her naked, beat her, put a gun in her mouth, and humiliated her. By providing in-depth journalistic coverage of Rosa’s case, La Silla Vacía was able to raise awareness of the challenges faced by victims of the conflict and demonstrate the difficulties involved in accessing justice and compensation as established under the Victims’ Law.
Due in part to La Silla Vacía’s coverage, Semana Magazine and the Leadership and Democracy Foundation selected Rosa Amelia Hernández as one of the 10 most influential leaders in Colombia in 2012. Most importantly, Rosa gained official protection from the government, which she had sought for several years. In 2013, La Silla Vacía received the Gabriel García Marquez award for its innovative approach in documenting a victim’s case in Proyecto Rosa. La Silla Vacía’s platform has had significant impact, serving as a model for the rest of the region and continuing to be the leader in investigative journalism in Colombia.
PICTURED: At the first convention of victims at the Armed Conflict Victims’ Alliance Forum in Colombia, NED grantee La Silla Vacía reported on the strong protests against the government’s handling of peace talks with the FARC.