Report to the IAPA 77 General Assembly Virtual
October 19-22, 2021

The aggressions and threats against journalists and media during the days of social protest and vandalism between April and June, as well as the murder of a reporter and acts of intimidation were the most disturbing events in this period.

The Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications ended early and without beneficiaries the public call for media outlets seeking to access resources for their digital transformation. The initiative was approved by Congress last year and its purpose was to encourage the recovery of the media from the impact of the pandemic.

The Colombian Media Association (AMI) regretted the decision, but was confident that the Government and Congress would work on public policies to promote the strengthening of the media.

The most serious incident occurred on September 19. Journalist Marcos Efraín Montalvo was murdered in Tuluá, Valle del Cauca. Montalvo worked for the Cali newspaper El País, the radio stations Radio Reloj and La Cariñosa, the weekly El Tabloide and the newspaper La Variante. According to the authorities, his murder was directly related to his journalistic work. The journalist had been denouncing acts of corruption. The Attorney General's Office prioritized his case and the regional authorities offered rewards for clues to the criminals.

The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) registered more than 300 aggressions against the press during the social unrest. Sometimes reporters were caught in the crossfire between demonstrators and law enforcement agents. However, most of the aggressions came from the government side.

FLIP documented 181 incidents against the press, including physical aggression, harassment, illegal arrests, obstruction of journalistic work and threats. It also recorded 79 cases of damage to media infrastructure, means of transportation, threats to journalists, harassment, stigmatization, aggressions on social networks and obstruction to journalistic work.

Other relevant events:

On June 8, journalist Pincen Mora - from Extrema Noticias radio station - was the target of an attack in Medellín, Antioquia. Eight gunmen fired into his home and radio headquarters, and attempted to break in. Mora has denounced irregularities in the sale of lots in his neighborhood.

Between June 13 and 22, Rafael Gómez, Édgar Astudillo, Organis Cuadrado and Rafael Moreno - journalists from the Córdoba department - received death threats.

Journalist Andrés Benavides - director of the Paraíso Stereo community radio station, in Puerres, Nariño - has been receiving threats. On September 1, he was stopped on a highway by three men who approached him and threatened him for being the director of the radio station.

On September 24, journalist Juan Pablo Barrientos was notified of seven protection actions filed by different priests in the department of Meta, who want to censor his book "Este es el cordero de Dios" (This is the Lamb of God). The actions request that the reproduction, commercialization and sale of the book be suspended and that Barrientos reveal the sources he used to write it. The book tells the story of a survivor of sexual abuse committed by 38 priests from the Archdiocese of Villavicencio.

On August 31, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted protective measures to journalists José Alberto Tejada and Jhonatan Buitrago - from Channel 2 in Cali - on the grounds that they are at risk.

A draft reform to the Electoral Code is under review by the Constitutional Court; several organizations expressed concern about it because it could affect freedom of expression on social networks.

Also of concern is Bill 600 of 2021, which demands responsibility from the media and internet service providers regarding the protection of the rights of children and adolescents for content considered harmful.

On the positive side, Bill 090 of 2021, limits the use of the judicial system as a mechanism to intimidate the free press via proceedings that lack evidentiary basis and do not seek compensation for damages.

In December, the statute of limitations will expire for the crime against journalist Álvaro Alonso - murdered on December 23, 2001 - who reported on corruption in the department of Magdalena. Escobar replaced Hernando Rangel Moreno - murdered on April 11, 1999 - as editor of the Región newspaper. Former paramilitary member Édgar Ariel Córdoba Trujillo was identified as the material perpetrator, but the justice system has not yet been able to establish the masterminds of his assassination.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Colombian state for the torture, kidnapping and rape of journalist Jineth Bedoya, in events that occurred in 2000, when she was carrying out an investigative work at the Modelo prison in Bogotá.

The ruling severely questioned the violation of the victim's rights to judicial guarantees, the absence of judicial protection and equality before the law due to the lack of due diligence when conducting investigations into said facts, the discriminatory nature on the grounds of genre of said investigations and violation of the reasonable period of time.

Likewise, he warned about "serious, precise and consistent evidence of state participation in the aforementioned events."

The Court also accepted the alternative of the State for the creation of the Historical Memory Center No es Hora de Callar, which will be a place of memory and dignity for all women victims of sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict and investigative journalism, with specific recognition of the work of women journalists. No Es Hora de Callar is the name of the campaign launched by Bedoya, who currently works as editor of the newspaper El Tiempo, to fight against all forms of abuse that affects women.