IAPA Midyear Meeting 2018

Medellín, Colombia

The most significant event in this period was the murder - on October 8, of the indigenous communicator Efigenia Vásquez Astudillo. She belonged to the communications group of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) and had worked at the radio station Renacer Kokonuko in Puracé, Cauca.

The Foundation for Freedom of the Press (Flip) stated that her death was related to her professional activity, although progress in the investigation is unknown.

The Supreme Court of Justice - ruling on a protective action, forced Publicaciones Semana to reveal the communications that its journalists had with their sources in relation to an article in the magazine Dinero about the businessman Eike Batista.

The Civil Chamber of the Court - supporting the ruling of the Superior Court of Bogotá along the same lines, affirmed that "journalistic activity, although it holds constitutional rank, is not absolute, therefore such profession does not imply, per se, the destruction of individual rights versus intimacy and honor. Journalists may not be censored or constrained, but they are subject to liability, in the event of a breach of the truth or an unjustified interference in private life that causes harm to third parties." The Court's decision was made on the basis of a complaint by a former public official, who considered that she had been harmed by journalists.

Days later, the court's workroom overturned the ruling. It did so with the argument that "the protection of the source is not a privilege appurtenant to the media, but a tool that allows the exercise of journalism and the protection of freedom of expression and information, as they form one of the basis of democracy."

Despite the favorable outcome, there is concern that the judiciary is attempting to restrict press freedom.

There have been a number of attacks by officials or former officials against journalists. Among them were the statements - made from his Twitter account - by former attorney general and former presidential candidate Alejandro Ordóñez against columnist Ricardo Silva, the statements made by former presidential candidate Carlos Caicedo and former congressional candidate Leszli Kalli on La Silla Vacía, and the accusations made by presidential candidate Gustavo Petro against the RCN channel, which he accused of being biased. Jesus Santrich, a candidate for the House of Representatives for the FARC party, called journalists from the newsreel of the same newspaper "cretins", when they asked a colleague of his party - and also a former guerrilla - about serious crimes committed while he was in the insurgency, and also the comments of former President Álvaro Uribe against journalist Daniel Coronell, saying that the later had "business with drug trafficking" and therefore he "thought" the journalist was "extraditable".

Coronell appealed to the Cundinamarca Court for a protective action that gave the former president 48 hours to rectify the situation. Uribe did so, but in an ambiguous and unsatisfactory manner, since in the tweet that contained the rectification he made new accusations of similar nature.

Attacks were also recorded on the infrastructure of two media outlets. On October 25, the Rural Press Agency's facilities were broken into and the criminals took media equipment from the area. On March 3, the transmitters of the community radio station in the department of Putumayo Colón Stereo were incinerated. The station couldn't get back on the air.

Other highlights:

According to Flip, there were 137 attacks on the press during this period. Among them were 57 threats, 21 from unknown persons, 13 from individuals, 7 from criminal gangs, 7 from guerrillas, 5 from paramilitaries, 2 from common criminals and 2 from civil servants.

On January 12, a judge in Pereira announced his decision to order the arrest of journalist William Restrepo for a correction the judge considered "insufficient." This was in response to a complaint filed by Sergio Mauricio Vega Lemus, president of the Pereira Chamber of Commerce, motivated by the opinions of Restrepo - a well-known communicator in national and international media, published in his social networks. On March 4, Vega Lemus published the conciliation on Twitter. It accepts the rectification and Restrepo apologizes.

The journalist Édison Bolaños, who had already had to leave the department of Cauca because of his complaints related to illegal mining, continued to be the victim of harassment - his vehicle was broken into and his journalistic elements were stolen while he was in Ibagué - while his protection scheme was recently withdrawn. The National Protection Unit is considering a request from the journalist for the reinstatement of his protection.

On December 17, the mayor of Rionegro (Santander), Wilson González Reyes, threatened journalist Luis Carlos Ortiz - from the radio station La Voz de la Inmaculada in that town, with a gun and physically and verbally attacked him. González fired his gun after Ortiz withdrew. The motive would be linked to allegations of irregularities in the Mayor's office.

A militant of the Centro Democrático party resorted to a protective action when he considered that a caricature by Julio César González - known as "Matador," affected his rights. The judge's ruling favored González. Later on the cartoonist was threatened through social networks, a situation that led him to announce the withdrawal of his cartoons from the networks.

Both candidate Iván Duque and former president Álvaro Uribe condemned the incident.

On March 10, suspected members of the FARC dissident group intimidated journalists from radio station Meridiano 60, in the Arauca department, while they interviewed a congressional candidate of the Centro Democrático party. They declared the station a "military target."

One of the people involved in the threats against journalist Claudia Julieta Duque was released.

Flip rejected the terms of the summons issued by the Attorney General's Office to columnist Jorge Gómez Pinilla - from the daily El Espectador, who was denounced for libel and slander by lawyer Abelardo de la Espriella in relation to statements Gómez made in his column. According to Flip, "the lack of clarity in the citation and its aggressive tone creates a situation of legal uncertainty that runs counter to the most basic rules of due process."

On November 23, a granade - that didn't explode, was thrown into the vehicle of journalist and social leader Ricardo Ruidíaz in Bogotá. Days earlier, Ruidíaz had already been the victim of a threat via a call to the Colmundo radio station, where he directs a weekly space on the prevention of violence against minors.

Regardless of how the case unfolds at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the court case for the murder of journalist Nelson Carvajal, in Pitalito, Huila, on April 16, 1998, will expire on April 16.

Other cases that expired:

Alejandro Jaramillo Barbosa, October 24, 2017; Francisco Castro, November 8, 2017; Jairo Elías Márquez, November 20, 2017 and Óscar García, February 22, 2018.

On February 1, Yean Arlex Buenaventura was sentenced to 58 years in prison by a court in Florence for the murder of Luis Peralta, in Doncello, Caquetá. This is the highest sentence imposed in the country for the murder of a journalist.

During this six-month period, three requests for removal or blocking of content on the Internet were registered, two from officials and one from an individual. There were also two cyber-attacks on infrastructure from unknown sources.