Miami (August 29, 2012)—A decision by the Supreme Court of Colombia not to proceed with libel action against a journalist was welcomed today by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).
The decision concerned a criminal charge being faced by Cecilia Orozco Tascón, a columnist with the Bogotá newspaper El Espectador. On August 23 the 23 Supreme Court justices had come out against criticisms of its recent rulings. These had been made by her and fellow journalist María Jimena Duzán, with the magazine Semana, in op-ed pieces of theirs.
At that time the Court said it would begin legal proceedings against Orozco Tascón, but later reversed its decision “as a way of contributing to the climate of moderation and restraint that the country needs.” At the same time it invited the Colombian press to adopt what it called “self-reflection.”
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, said he was pleased that the Supreme Court had put the action against the journalist aside, “as otherwise it would have been an abuse of privilege embroiled in a serious conflict of interest.” He reminded the judges that both they and other public officials are subject to criticism and greater scrutiny on the part of the people.
In her column headlined “The New Court,” published in Semana on August 19, Duzán criticized the Supreme Court for a recent ruling that upheld the extradition to the United States of a former paramilitary and another one that set less severe sentences in cases of offenses committed by members of Congress than those applied to common citizens. The Court called the comments “tendentious.”
In the other development, on August 22 Orozco Tascón referred in her column headlined “Homage to a Brave and Decent Judge,” carried in El Espectador, to the dismissal of Justice Iván Velásquez – known for his probes into links between politicians and paramilitary officers – from his post as coordinator of the Court’s Support Commission. She called Velásquez, the Court’s “star investigator,” describing him as “a stone in the shoe of the bosses, the corrupt members of Congress, the spoils mongering parties, and their own colleagues, the justices of the Court, whose conduct is ever closer to that of those being prosecuted.” The Court labeled the piece “biased.”
Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, declared, “We should bear in mind that when this kind of denunciation is made by those in authority it could lead to self-censorship by creating a feeling that exercising the right to freedom of opinion can be punished.”
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.