Miami (March 29, 2023) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the acts of intimidation by criminal gangs against El Heraldo, Colombia, journalists. The organization urged the authorities to investigate the incidents and guarantee the safety of journalists.
The newspaper denounced that it has recently been subjected to "pressures and intimidations from illegal armed actors" with the intention of forcing it to publish its messages. The most recent occurred on March 27, when six men arrived at the newspaper's headquarters in Barranquilla. Two armed men entered the building and demanded to speak with the director, Érika Fontalvo, who was unavailable, but three journalists attended them. They had a message from Digno Palomino, one of the gang's leaders, "Los Costeños" and urged the publication of an interview.
IAPA President Michael Greenspon condemned "the serious threats against El Heraldo and other Colombian media." Greenspon, Global Head of Licensing & Print Innovation for the New York Times, added that "the forcible dissemination of messages represents a violation of press freedom and the safety of journalists and media outlets."
Last week a member of a rival faction to Palomino called the newspaper to demand an interview with another of the leaders of "Los Costeños," according to the organization Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP). On March 25, a video of the leader of "Los Rastrojos Costeños," another Barranquilla criminal group filmed in prison, was released, demanding that El Heraldo, Impacto News, and Zona Cero interview him. The latter media outlet also received a warning that day via social media: "You are going to rot with bombs in your facilities."
The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, expressed: "We have been warning in recent months of the increase in threats against journalists in several countries of the region, a matter that should be treated as a priority by the corresponding authorities and protection mechanisms." Jornet, editor of the newspaper La Voz del Interior, of Argentina, urged the Colombian authorities to "address with urgency the issue and put a stop to the acts of illegal groups that violate the free practice of journalism and the right of citizens to be informed."
The IAPA officers announced that violence against the press would be the main topic during the IAPA Mid-Year Meeting to be held virtually from April 25 to 27.
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.