The murder of the reporting team of Ecuador newspaper El Comercio by a dissident group of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) on Colombian soil was an event of major seriousness in this period.
The El Comercio team, made up of reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and the driver of the vehicle they were traveling in, Efraín Segarra, was kidnapped on March 26 ion the Colombia-Ecuador border. They were doing a reporting job about the state of public order in the area when they were detained at a checkpoint on the Ecuadorean side and later transferred to Colombian soil, where they were murdered.
On April 13 the matter was confirmed. Their bodies were found by the Colombian Army on June 23. Some hours before their death was confirmed the IACHR has issued them precautionary measures. On July 16 there was captured Gustavo Angulo Arboleda, a.k.a. Cherry, who according to the Public Prosecutor's Office was the man who kidnapped the three. He was charged with having been hired to commit a crime with the aim of murder and kidnapping. Jesús Vargas Cuajiboy, a.k.a. Reinel, captured on July 7, was the jailer of the Ecuadoreans, according to the Public Prosecutor's Office. He was in charge of transferring them from Ecuador to Colombia.
On August 5 then president Juan Manuel Santos reported on the capture of alias 'Otto" and alias 'Roberto' who were also said to have participated in the crime.
To this event there are added the murders of Valentín Rúa Tezada and Jairo Alberto Calderón Plaza on August 2 in different circumstances.
Rúa Tezada, host of radio station Salvajina Estéreo, was murdered in the town of Suárez, Cauca province. He was shot after receiving a phone call ordering him to leave his home. He worked for 15 years at the radio station in which he reported on community affairs.
That same day there was attacked Calderón Plaza, director of the news website Contacto in Tulúa, Valle de Cauca province. According to eye-witnesses Plaza, 29, was riding a motorcycle when an unidentified person on another motorcycle shot at him several times.
In this period also their became subject to statute of limitations the murders of Bernabé Cortés, killed in Cali on May 19, 1998, and of Amparo Leonor Jiménez, killed in Valledupar on August 11 of the same year.
On June 6 the Inter-American Human Rights Court (IACHRCourt) disclosed the ruling in which it declared the Colombian government responsible for the murder of journalist Nelson Carvajal. For the first time an international court convicted a government for a murder whose motive was the practice of journalism by the victim. The case was submitted by the IAPA before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2002 and then passed to the IACHRCourt.
Carvajal, murdered on April 16, 1998, had dedicated himself to investigating matters of corruption and money-laundering arising from drug trafficking in his city, Pitalito, in Huila province. He was killed on leaving the college in which he worked as a teacher.
For the IACHRCourt the Colombian government is responsible for the extraordinary delay of the case, also for not having investigated the threats that caused nine members of Carvajal's family to go into exile.
On the local front the case is on the brink of going unpunished. Pending is the final decision on the declaration of the offense as a crime of lese humanity to prevent its becoming subject to statute of limitations. The Public Prosecutor's Office denied the request, but this decision was appealed. In its pronouncement the Public Prosecutor's Office found applicable to the case Law 1426 of 2010 which lengthens the amount of time of becoming subject to statute of limitations to 30 years.
Coinciding with the 19th anniversary of the murder of Jaime Garzón the Seventh Criminal Court of the Bogotá Specialized Circuit sentenced to 30 years imprisonment and payment of the equivalent of 500 minimum salaries to the victim's family by the former assistant director of the Safety Administration Department (DAS), José Miguel Narváez. This has profoundly shocked the nation since August 1999. Narváez "sold" the idea of ending Garzón's life to the then paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño. It stood out that the case was not declared one of lese humanity and that the role of being a journalist had not been considered as having aggravated the crime.
For the case of the murder of journalist and opposition leader Edison Alberto Molina Carmona, having occurred on September 11, 2013 in Puerto Berrio, Antioquia, Medellín's 17th administrative tribunal declared the government responsible for non-compliance with the obligation of the safety and protection of the journalist's life.
The ruling recognizes that Molina engaged in journalistic activities and that, as a consequence of his work and of his role as leader of the opposition, he was understood to have been the object of threats that were not dealt with by the government in an opportune manner and in particular by the National Police.
There is concern in the press following the approval on September 17 in first hearing in the Senate of a bill, the 234 of 2018, submitted by Senator Mauricio Aguilar and House Representative María Eugenia Triana that revives the figure of professional card for journalists and also creates a Professional Social/Journalist Communicator Council to issue said document and promote "dignifying the professional, encouraging social function and through practices of self-regulation of those practicing the profession."
Other recent events:
There was an increase in the number of threats to journalists within a context of a post-conflict in which there was also an increase in crimes against social leaders. The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) documented 89 cases this year, against 65 in the same period last year.
In this period of concern was the slowness of the National Protection Unit (UNP) when there is made awareness of cases of threats to journalists, as well as the withdrawal of protection of those still at risk.
On April 14 the armed group Popular Liberation Army sent via Whatsapp a threatening message to reporters, editors and managers of community radio stations in Catatumbo region, in northeastern Colombia. In it they were ordered to issue a communiqué on the start of an armed strike in the region.
On April 18 radio station Cardenal Estéreo in Vallesdupar, Cesar province, received five threats within a lapse of 24 hours, obliging it to come off the air.
In May the former governor of Antioquia, Luis Alfredo Ramos, filed a charge against Medellín news bulletin Noticias Uno and journalist Ignacio Gómez, alleging violation of his dignity, honor and good name. The Medellín Circuit Seventh Criminal Court ordered the information on a real fact to be rectified. From there the rectification did not proceed on the grounds the information is true. The decision was refuted by Noticias Uno and will be taken up by Medellín High Court.
On May 17 the Nariño Sectional Public Prosecutor's Office, with support of that of Sijín, broke into three indigenous radio stations and two peasants' ones in Pasto rural areas, considering them to be unlawful focuses of radio broadcasting. In addition their equipments were seized. The three indigenous stations concerned are La Voz de Obunoco, Quilla Huirá Stereo of Catambuco and La Voz Quillasinga of Mocondino. The other two media are Chuquimarca Stereo and Latina Stereo.
In June two reporters specializing in environmental matters, Alberto Castaño and María Lourdes Zimmermann, had to go into exile after receiving threats. Castaño received the first threat in March through Twitter after having denounced the murder of environmental leaders. He also carried out an investigation concerning deforestation. Some days later an armed person approached him in a public place, an action that was followed by another similar one in which the rider of an unlicensed motorcycle approached at a traffic light to threaten him. In the faceoff delay in response by the UNP to his request for protection for him and his family he made the decision along with Zimmermann, his partner, who also has received threats on social media, including an undue entry of her profile on Facebook, to abandon the country.
On June 5 the FLIP asked the UNP for protective actions on an emergency basis for reporter Catalina Vásquez at Comuna13 in Medellín, following the murder of some sources close to her. This request has not had a response.
On June 14 the home of Juan José Hoyos, columnist and stringer of El Colombiano, was attacked by unknown assailants. When he arrived at his home in Medellín he found the apartment door lock destroyed and on checking his personal belongings noted that they had stolen his computer, hard drive, video camera and photo camera.
Katherine Leal and Juan Pablo Latorre, RCN radio reporters, have been the object of numerous intimidations. On June 28 a person who identified himself as "El Aguapanelero" told Leal in a telephone call that she had been declared "military objective" for dealing with the issue of extrajudicial executions or "falsehoods," then giving her detailed information on her workplace and residence. He ordered her to renounce on air within 72 hours. In a call to that same radio station on July 16 threats were made to colleagues Yolanda Ruiz, Jorge Espinosa and Juan Pablo Latorre. Weeks earlier, on June 5, a similar situation had arisen in Bucaramanga against journalists of this chain, Nelson Cipagauta, Stendy Blanco and Melissa Munera. Luis Carlos Vélez, director of the FM radio, also complained of threats against him through social media. In the first case the perpetrator identified himself with the alias 'Nini' of the ELN, an organization that later denied being linked to the threat.
On July 25 a man who accompanied one of those implicated in the case of corruption of the Financial Fund of Development Projects beat with a stick news photographer Cristian Garavito of the newspaper El Espectador. When he noticed that another journalist, César Flechas of Caracol radio station, was recording what was happening he violently seized his cell phone.
On August 2 people who identified themselves as members of the "Black Eagles" threatened journalists Germán Arenas, Dubán García and Jairo Figueroa, who worked in Mocoa, Putumayo. The threats were made through social media outlet Facebook and in a telephone call in which García was advised to leave town.
On August 15 unidentified persons stole a computer belonging to the Ruta del Conflicto journalistic team. The team had highly sensitive information on victims in current proceedings on restitution of lands.
On seven occasions there have appeared several pamphlets signed by the "Black Eagles" threatening journalists and national news media. The September 4 pamphlet included Daniel Coronell, cartoonist Julio César González 'Matador'; Jineth Bedoya and the website La Silla Vacía. Another message of July 14 included an extensive list of activists, politicians, social leaders and journalists.
Also, on September 10 a pamphlet was received by Martha Delgado, a journalist with the alternative media outlet El Maracanazoo, as well as Guillermo Castro of El Turbión and Omar Vera and Juan Manuel Arango of Colombia's Clarín.
On September 13 journalists Ernesto Mercado of RT Ruptly.tv, César Melgarejo of El Tiempo, Daniel Garzón and John Hamon, freelance journalists, and a news photographer of Revista Semana magazine were attacked by units of the National Police's Anti-Disturbances Mobile Squadron while they were covering a student protest that turned violent at Bogota's Pedagogic University.
Journalist and activist Ricardo Ruidíaz dedicated to denouncing cases of mistreatment of minors and threats to social leaders in the Magdalena Medio region, complained of 10 intimidations, the UNP however reduced his protection program.
Journalist Jhanuaria Gómez had to leave the town of Segovia, Antioquia, after receiving threats for her work on mining and its impact on the environment.
In an unprecedented move, prosecutor Daniel Hernandez filed an action to have his right to a good name protected because of a column by journalist María Jimena Duzán – published in Semana magazine, which questions the work of the Prosecution in a corruption investigation involving the Brazilian company Odebrecht. The action was dismissed.
On October 11 and 17, RCN's facilities in Bogotá were attacked by student demonstrators – who caused physical damage to the headquarters and insulted journalists. FLIP expressed its concern about the possible involvement of political leaders in these incidents.