Uruguayan Army’s Peace Operations School Trains Journalists

Uruguayan Army’s Peace Operations School Trains Journalists

By Carlos Maggi/Diálogo
November 29, 2017

Through the National Peace Operations Institute of Uruguay (ENOPU, per its Spanish acronym) and the Uruguayan Army's Social Communication Department, a group of 30 journalists and service members from Mexico, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Uruguay, received training on news coverage in hostile areas August 21st–24th. The course included an in-class theoretical module and a practical module on the field, where participants implemented the knowledge acquired during a mock situation with the Army's mechanized assets and the Air Force’s helicopters.

The goal of the “Press Correspondent-Journalists in Hostile Areas” course is to provide tools to manage the news and survive in hostile terrain during peacekeeping missions. The course includes preventive health measures in tropical areas, negotiation, and security in war zones. The course took place in facilities of the Parachute Infantry Battalion, where students witnessed hostage rescues. They also received training on confronting an abduction situation.

The Engineering Instruction Center offered a class on explosive devices and minefields. The terrorist explosive artifact disposal team and military K9 team also provided details of their work. “From the moment journalists accompany us abroad during peacekeeping missions, or in certain domestic activities, we know they need the tools and connections with the force, so that their work and ours is enhanced and neither of us interfere in the work of the other,” Uruguayan Army Lieutenant Colonel Pablo Caubarrere, deputy director of ENOPU, told Diálogo.

The great amount of experience that Uruguay collected in worldwide peacekeeping missions and the quality of instructors who deliver the course earned the institution international prestige. There is interest from abroad to participate in the annual training. “The school is associated with other schools and other countries,” Lt. Col. Caubarrere said. “For example, Mexico is very interested in participating in peacekeeping missions and constantly sends officers or personnel from their forces for training, foreseeing future deployments, just like the Paraguayan Army—which currently has a limited participation that it seeks to increase.”

Uruguay's continuous history of work and effort earned it recognition for its soldiers’ professionalism during their participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Their training school also became an international benchmark. “The faculty team is made up of 15 people, all specialists in one of the areas taught in the course. Journalists are provided with the tools to deploy in hostile environments. It can be the location of a current conflict, a peacekeeping mission area, or a situation where a demonstration turned violent,” said Uruguayan Army Second Lieutenant Mariana Meza, member of the Social Communication Department. The Uruguayan Army assumes the course’s costs and offers it for free to journalists—including enrollment, materials, food, and transportation to the field for practical instruction.

Foreign presence

Four foreign students took advantage of this opportunity: one Mexican, two Paraguayans and one Venezuelan, who stressed the high level of the course. “It’s an unparalleled experience because my expectations were to participate in a theoretical course, and I found myself in very real situations that left me with an unparalleled experience, which I'll surely never experience again until I am sent on a real mission,” said Mexican Army Staff Sergeant Liliana Reyes. “It’s very exciting and it leaves me with a real life lesson.”

Paraguayan Army First Lieutenant Edgar Balbuena, instructor at the Paraguayan Peace Operations Training Center, described his experience as a student with civilian journalists as positive. “It’s a new experience for me because I've never taken a course with a civilian, and that’s very positive because I can understand civilians’ opinions of the military, and I will share the information from this course with my country’s instructors,” 1st Lt. Balbuena said.

In 2018, ENOPU will develop another instance of the course directed toward media professionals and advanced journalism or mass communications students.