Miami (December 2, 2010)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed concern at the Panamanian government’s agreement to grant asylum to the former intelligence chief of Colombia, saying it could “allow serious accusations of espionage committed against Colombian journalists and news media to go unpunished.”
IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín said his organization is not evaluating or analyzing the causes and political implications of the differing positions of the two countries regarding the asylum that President Ricardo Martinelli’s government granted on November 22 to María del Pilar Hurtado, who was the head of Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (DAS) in 2007 and 2008.
“Rather, what concerns us is that by granting political asylum a blanket of impunity could cover the flagrant crimes against freedom of the press in Colombia -- such as the wiretapping of journalists and news media,” said Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre.
IAPA reports in recent years have condemned unlawful actions by the Colombian government against press freedom. (See relevant paragraphs from twice-yearly reports on press freedom in Colombia, http://www.impunidad.com/informes.php?id=45&idioma=us).
The DAS was responsible for the illegal wiretapping of judges, political leaders and journalists in recent years. While some of those responsible have been charged and jailed, the current Attorney General’s Office has yet to determine the responsibility of Hurtado and other officials allegedly involved.
Marroquín added that violations of press freedom should be considered as a condition for granting political asylum “because what we’re talking about is a principle that is recognized as fundamental for democracy, as established in the constitutions of all democratic nations.”
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information, please go to http://www.sipiapa.org