Report to the Midyear Meeting 2019
March 29 to 31
Cartagena, Colombia
Press freedom and the practice of journalism continue to be threatened by a lack of judicial and material security prevailing in the country, as well as a legal framework which contains laws that contravene international human rights standards. In this period a journalist was murdered.

On March 17 there was murdered Gabriel Hernández in the city of Nacaóme, Valle province. Hernández, 54, hosted the opinion program "The People Speaks" on Canal Valle TV in which he used to denounce irregularities in the mayor's office and criticize local politicians. He was also correspondent of Radio Globo of Tegucigalpa. He was heading home around midday when he was intercepted by unidentified persons who shot him seven times. According to media and news organizations he had requested protection due to threats against him, but this was denied.

On March 28, journalist David Romero was arrested, sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for defamation and slander. The journalist and director of Radio Globo, is a strong critic of President Juan Orlando Hernández. Police forces violently broke into the headquarters of the radio, where Romero had taken refuge since March 25 when the decision to capture him was made public. The Supreme Court of Justice rejected in January the petition to conduct a new trial and ratified the sentence of 10 years in prison.

Serious is the deterioration in access to public information, limited by laws that violate international principles. There is maintained a marked interest on the part of the government in favoring lack of transparency in public affairs, weakening the principles of transparency and maximum dissemination. The government continues ignoring repeated calls by the international community that it adjust its legislation in this regard.

Within the framework of the fight against corruption there have arisen protests by the public and private sectors against attempts to restrict access to reports about legal processes that involve matters of public interest, based on the idea that the "presumption of innocence" is a value superior to that of freedom of expression.

During this period there increased the discretionary handling of official advertising which has been denounced by journalists who consider that their work is limited by the dependence of some media on such advertising.

There have been reported more cases of excessive of force by police authorities, particularly during public protests. Standing out is the case of journalist Geovanny Sierra of UneTV, who received a gunshot wound while covering a protest in November 2018 in Tegucigalpa.

The state system of protection of journalists continues to be ineffective, although during this period there have been recorded several cases of journalists who prefer to move abroad with their families to protect their personal integrity.

There continue to go unpunished almost all of the cases that have involved the death of journalists or attacks upon people connected to news media.

There remain in effect elements that criminalize and punish critical expressions referring to public officials and about matters of public interest, with an increase in legal actions against journalists through libel lawsuits.

There has been an increase in hate campaigns against news media and journalists made through social media and websites. The denunciations have had no response from the authorities.