78th General Assembly

October 27 – 30, 2022

Madrid, Spain


In this period the most relevant events against freedom of the press were the hostility towards the press in the context of intense polarization during the final phase of the presidential campaign, as well as the murders of journalists, threats and pressures to hinder the practice of journalism in investigations into cases of corruption and armed violence.

On October 16, journalist Rafael Emiro Moreno Garavito - director of the digital media Voces de Córdoba - who was known for his denunciations of corruption and illegal armed groups, was murdered in the municipality of Montelíbano. Moreno had been the target of threats since 2019 and for that reason the National Protection Unit had assigned him a bodyguard - IAPA and other institutions demanded a prompt investigation by the Attorney General's Office into the perpetrators of the crime.

Another case under investigation is that of Leiner Montero and Dilia Contreras - murdered on August 28 in Fundación. The Attorney General's Office ordered the arrest of a man identified as the author of the double homicide - who had had an argument with Montero a few hours earlier.

In relation to the presidential elections, the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) and the Association of Information Media (AMI), among others, expressed in May their concern about the manipulation of the public discourse in social networks and the level of aggressiveness against the press by the campaigns of Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernandez during the runoff election.

The content of the messages - aimed at discrediting the work of the press and associating a sector of the press to extreme ideologies - had the potential to incite violence against the media and its members.

Associations defending freedom of the press and freedom of expression pointed out that political figures, including officials and candidates, should show a greater level of tolerance to criticism.

This reminder is connected with the case of the newspaper El Colombiano, of Medellín - due to the attitudes assumed by Mayor Daniel Quintero and his team in response to journalistic investigations on alleged acts of corruption. Through social networks, the mayor and some officials instigated and conducted discrediting and smear campaigns against the credibility of the newspaper and its editor, which led to online violence by the mayor's followers. The newspaper also denounced that the authorities committed acts of judicial harassment and delay and denial of information.

FLIP denounced that officials from President Gustavo Petro's government - as well as members of the ruling party Pacto Histórico - promoted stigmatizing messages and reckless accusations against the magazine Semana, its editor and members of its staff.

Eight journalists denounced obstacles to access information in the Attorney General's Office. Fifteen regional and local media went off the air for several days due to a strike promoted by the armed group known as Clan del Golfo in Antioquia and Córdoba in early May. Through violent threats, members of this organization - dedicated to drug trafficking - demanded that journalists refrain from broadcasting information about what was happening in the affected municipalities.

David Ghitis, a columnist from the NTN24 portal, went into exile. On September 7, Ghitis, a well-known influencer and critic of leftist parties, announced that he was leaving the country due to threats - which the authorities described as "credible."

Since March, there have been 120 threats against media and journalists: 16 incidents of physical aggression, 34 cases of denied access to information, 18 of judicial harassment, one sexual violence case, one exile case, 29 harassment cases and six cases of illegal arrests, among others, according to FLIP.

Several cases of murdered journalists fell under the statute of limitations during this period. Walter López and Héctor Sandoval - killed in Cali on April 12, 2002; Víctor Ómar Acosta - killed on May 20, 2002, in Yumbo, and Mario Prada Díaz - killed on July 12, 2002, in Sabana de Torres. These murders remain in total impunity.

Finally, several media outlets expressed their concern about the draft of a bill that - even though it has not yet been submitted to Congress - raises serious concerns about its scope. The initiative has been presented as an option to strengthen community and alternative media. While the purpose is laudable, the wording contains elements that may restrict or affect press freedom - by establishing obligations and conditions that may have an impact on journalistic work.

In addition, the stigmatizing bias against private media is concerning given the fact that they are not responsible for the alleged lack of plurality of information indicated in the bill, on the contrary, they are part of the diversity of information needed in a democracy.

The bill establishes that "when the media - regardless of their modality - refer to organizations and social movements, they will have a special obligation to investigate, analyze and contrast the information related to such organizations and movements before disseminating it. The media will be especially obliged to consider the organizations and social movements and their leaders as sources when they intend to inform on matters that directly concern these organizations and movements" subject to penalties which "shall be regulated."