The increasing numbers of death threats to journalists has become the biggest press freedom concern in this period, worsened by the lack of action by public prosecutors in such cases. On the other hand, there have been advances in the battle against impunity. On March 29 it was learned that the Colombian Attorney General’s Office had decided to order the arrest of two politicians in Caldas province, Ferney Tapasco González, former member of the Caldas legislature, and his son, also a former legislator, Dixon Tapasco Triviño, for alleged involvement as masterminds in the January 30, 202 murder of journalist Orlando Sierra, an emblematic case for the IAPA. Bogotá human rights special prosecutor Luis Alberto Reyes ordered the arrest without benefit of bail “for their alleged involvement as masterminds in the murder of journalist Orlando Sierra.” In the 64-page document details are not given of another two detained persons named this year as possible intermediaries with those who carried the murder. Currently the two politicians are being held at the La Picota prison in Bogotá for having had links with the outlawed paramilitary movement. Their defense attorneys announced that they will appeal. The action comes several months after the Attorney General’s Office named the politicians following an investigation on October 30 last year. Nevertheless, despite the fact that in June last year the National Directorate of Public Prosecutors’ Offices, at the request of the IAPA, ordered proceedings to begin in 27 cases of crimes against journalists the results have not been what were hoped for. On the legislative front worthy of mention is adoption of a number of laws with contents that are important for the press. Sentences were increased from 20 to 30 years for murder and abduction of persons who because of their job receive special protection by the government, as is the case of journalists. On December 29 financial incentives established several years ago for plaintiffs in so-called popular lawsuits were eliminated. These enabled a large number of lawyers to constantly file suit against newspapers, seeking the withdrawal or modification of news and advertising content that the plaintiffs claimed were violating their rights. The databases and archives of news reports and other editorial content were expressly excluded in the bill for a law to regulate access to information. The matter is currently being reviewed by the Constitutional Court. In the political reform bill approved in December eliminated was a requirement for journalists to give at least 50% discounts in advertising rates for placement of electoral propaganda. The anti-corruption bill, currently before Congress, includes a requirement that the placement of official advertising be subject to pre-established, clear, objective and transparent criteria. Despite the advances achieved in this legislative session there is concern regarding the ongoing frequent attempts by the legislators to impose on the news media obligations and prohibitions concerning content, thus restricting editorial autonomy. The majority of such proposals are contained in bills that are pursuing praiseworthy ends and therefore are finding considerable support and make it difficult for people to understand the damage that censorship of news content would cause. These bills have to do with related issues, such as for example childhood and adolescence; racism and racial discrimination; discrimination for reasons of sex or age; acts of cruelty to or torture of animals; treatment of electric or electronic waste products; road rage and safety, and those that prohibit the dissemination of advertising of alcoholic beverages and betting. The bill number 221 in the Senate is causing concern, it having been introduced in Congress for the fifth time; failing to recognize the Constitution and case law of the Constitutional Court, it seeks to revive obligatory membership in a journalists guild and the holding of a press credential, establishes conscientious objection, and empowers non-judicial panels to impose penalties on journalists. Judicial harassment of news media and journalists is continuing, through the use and abuse of legal actions, especially custody and libel suits, the latter being against columnists, such as the case against Claudia López, one of those that aroused most expectation among the public and which was ruled on in February. She had been accused in 2006 by former president Ernesto Samper of having harmed his reputation and good name in a column published in the newspaper El Tiempo. The Bogotá Municipal Court No. 23 acquitted her of libel charges, holding that there had not been sufficient reason to uphold them, after legal proceedings had lasted for more than four years. The ruling shows that more importance was given to freedom of opinion, highlighting that people who voluntarily enter public life should be more tolerant of criticism. Samper’s defense and the Attorney General’s Office had called for the journalist’s conviction, arguing that freedom of the press is not an absolute right. Regarding civil actions, a staggering 11 million pesos fine was ordered to be paid by Meridiano de Córdoba, a small daily newspaper in northern Colombia, for having published a photo of a murdered person with its headline and cutline giving a wrong name and an incorrect alias. Despite the error being corrected by the paper voluntarily as soon as it became aware of it, the judge held that the pain and suffering caused to the family had to be compensated. It is worth noting that several developments in this period had been of help in the anti-impunity battle in Colombia. The fact that the investigations into and legal action against a number of those accused of being involved in an Administrative Security Department (DAS) scandal have continued, including with conviction of several of the officials who had ordered the trailing and vigilance of journalists, public officials, members of the opposition, etc., which is seen as a step forward in the battle against impunity. In December the Administrative Department of the Civil Service established the guidelines that should be taken into account by public entities at the national and provincial levels in the training and retraining of officials to make them aware of the importance of facilitating access to public information and their responsibility in making this fundamental right be observed. Such programs should deal, among other things, with national and international standards and case law on the issue, public and classified information, and incompatibilities and shortcomings. It is hoped that this will contribute to official agencies being more diligent in freely handing over information requested by the media in performing their role. The Colombian Presidency, through Communications Advisory Council, on February 10 sent a presidential order to the heads of ministries, administrative departments, superintendents’ offices, special administrative units and other national bodies to review with it the terms of advertising campaigns that they wish to undertake, together with the content to be published or broadcast in the news media, to include the costs, with the aim of their being in line with the relevant policies drawn up by the new administration. In late October this year elections will take place to choose governors, mayors, council members, members of Congress and of local Administrative Boards. The National Electoral Council in a resolution set the dates when election propaganda can begin, and the number of broadcast spots, press releases and advertising billboards to which the parties in contention have a right to. Of concern, however, is a bill under debate that would ban publication of results of voter polls during 15 days prior to elections. Other important developments during this period: Among threats and other violations of freedom of information, according to the Colombian Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), there have been so far this year 23 journalists subjected to threats, two cases of obstruction of the work of newsgathering and four cases of inhuman and degrading treatment of journalists. On October 15 a columnist for El Universal of Cartagena and the magazine Semana, Claudia Ayola Escallón, received an e-mail containing a death threat and declaring, “The time has come for you to pay for what you write.” Her most recent reports had to do with violence. In late October President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the government had information obtained for computers seized at the “Mono Jojoy” camp of guerrillas belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), showing that they planned to make an attempt on the life of journalist Olga Cecilia Vega. Vega, in exile since 2006, had already been the object of attacks and threats in 2002 and also in 2005 after holding an interview with the FARC’s second in command at the time, Raúl Reyes, with whom it was said she had a love affair, which she always denied. Vega was a correspondent of the newspaper The New Herald in the Florencia war zone in southern Colombia and due to this she had to flee the country. The legal affairs editor of the Bogotá newspaper El Tiempo, Jineth Bedoya Lima, was threatened by the FARC after presenting her book “Vida y muerte del Mono Jojoy” (The Life and Death of Mono Jojoy) in early November. In 2000 she had been kidnapped, tortured and raped by a group of paramilitaries in an incident that remains unpunished. The Colombian reporter specializes in investigation of armed conflict. In the rural township of Yopal, Casanare province, journalist Rubén Darío Venegas, an employee of the radio station La Voz de Yopal, was beaten up by members of the police Anti-Riot Squad while covering a protest by a group of demonstrators over the bad state of local roads. On December 2 a threat was made to journalist Ramón Sandoval Rodríguez, editor of the newspaper El Sabanero in Sabana de Torrre, in the eastern province of Santander, the same place where Mario Prada, editor of the weekly Horizonte Sabanero, had been murdered in 2002. In Valledupar, Cesar province, on January 22 radio reporter Jaime José Daza was threatened as he was arriving at the radio station Maravilla Estéreo by two men on a motorcycle, one of them hooded. The assailants stole his money and tape recorder, which contained important information obtained in an investigation he was conducting. On February 17, according to the FLIP, an e-mail was circulating that contained threats to kill various political leaders, members of non-governmental organizations, among them the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER), and four Colombian newsmen. The document, signed by the central bloc of the self-styled Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) contained “threats to kill and annihilate” a number of civil organizations and declared several people to be a military objective, among them journalists Eduardo Márquez, president of FECOLPER; Hollman Morris, editor of Contravía; Daniel Coronell, editor of Noticias Uno; Marcos Perales Mendoza, editor of the Bucaramanga newspaper Portada, and reporters Claudia Julieta Duque of Nizkor radio. Márquez said he had not received any previous threat but added that this one was received at the time that FECOLPER had been following up on the murder of journalist Clodmiro Castilla in Córdoba and giving support to several other journalists in Tolima who had been witnesses in the trials of local paramilitary groups. In the middle of an attempt to free three kidnap victims in the hands of the FARC in February mediator Piedad Córdoba said on Caracol Radio that journalist Sugey Rivera, correspondent of Caracol News in Guaviare province in southern Colombia, was working for the military and complained of her presence at the scene, calling this a serious violation of what had been agreed for the release to take place. On March 18 journalist Ana Mercedes Ariza of the television news channel Noticiero CM& and her cameraman, Armando Camelo, while working on a piece about the mining activities of multinational company Greystar in the California region of Santander province, were attacked by local townspeople who accused the news media of making the company withdraw its request for a license to mine for gold in Páramo de Santurbán. Police managed to prevent the incident from escalating, after an attempt had been made to lynch the journalists.