Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

The most serious incident in this period was the murder of journalist Mardonio Mejía in San Pedro, Department of Sucre. Mejía was the director of the local station Sonora Estéreo, and his morning program was open to citizen complaints. With his death, the primary channel that San Pedro had to access information about the area was closed. Although the arrest of the alleged material author of the murder was a step forward, it is also urgent for Justice to clarify the motives and the intellectual authors. Mejía had reported being a victim of extortion.

During this period, aggressions against the press continued by national and local governments. The stigmatization against the media stimulated by the National Government and led by President Gustavo Petro is a repeated practice. The messages from the president against the press and reporters who investigate and question his administration, policies, and proposals are increasingly frequent and emphatic. According to the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), in 2023, there were 121 aggressions by public officials against the press, a rising trend.

Among the many statements from President Petro in March, he stated: "Colombian society was brutalized through RCN and Caracol, and that the only knowledge that is transmitted to the majority of citizens is that which arrives through those broadcasters," a brutalizing effect that "is lulling Colombian society to sleep and making it feel that death is normal, that genocide is normal, that the violation of rights of the most humble is normal and it does not react."

In the regions, journalists have also been victims of stigmatization by local authorities. In Rionegro (Antioquia), local leaders threatened journalists with legal actions against those who publish fake news, and they refuted their content through social media. In November, the mayor of Cali discredited an investigation by the newspaper El País, which he described as false, defamatory, and dangerous. In December, the mayor of Santa Marta accused the media outlet of publishing fake news and threatened to take legal action if it continued to misinform the community. The board of the Municipal Council of Cúcuta is working on a resolution to prohibit entry to the premises of journalists from the digital media Notifrontera in retaliation for their investigations into the management of the council members.

In some sectors of the national Congress, invitations to control the media and messages of stigmatization continue against information they find uncomfortable.

María Fernanda Carrascal, a representative of the ruling party in the Chamber, stated on the social network X that the media promotes hate, distorts facts, and resists the political reforms promoted by the president. Alfredo Saade, a politician from the ruling party, insisted on his X social network account on the idea of implementing actions to sanction and close media outlets.
The Attorney General's Office requested the magazines Raya, Semana, and Cambio, as well as W Radio Colombia and its team of journalists, to reveal their investigative sources, affecting professional secrecy. The Attorney General's Office proceeded against the magazines Raya and Cambio through an order from Prosecutor 60, specialized against corruption, to inspect the headquarters of that media. Following this event, the same institution announced it would investigate the official and rejected his autonomous decision.

Several journalists received threats and intimidating messages. Among others, Oscar Mauricio Rodríguez, founder of El Megáfono del Líbano, Tolima; Camilo Chará, from the city of Cali, who was demanded to leave the country, and the newspaper Prensa Libre de Valledupar suffered an aggression that prevented its operation for several days.

Other significant events:

On February 2, journalists from Red Noticias were victims of death threats, physical assaults, and destruction of news material while covering a public demonstration.

On February 6, journalists from Blu Radio, La FM, and RCN were attacked, harassed, and accused of being liars and corrupt by participants in the February 6 demonstrations, called by the president, which served to pressure the Supreme Court in the process of electing a new Attorney General.

On March 6, during the protests called by the opposition, journalists from RTVC Noticias were assaulted and accused of being liars and guerrillas while trying to obtain statements from the protesters.

On March 8, protesters from the March 8 demonstration stopped before the newspaper's headquarters, La Opinión de Cúcuta, and attempted to force their way in. They accused the media outlet of being aggressors, rapists, and complicit in femicides, and physically assaulted journalists.

In judicial matters, the Criminal Chamber of the Superior Court of Bogotá sentenced Ronald Harbey Rivera Rodríguez to 12 and a half years in prison after declaring him one of those responsible for the surveillance, persecution, and psychological torture that journalist Claudia Julieta Duque Orrego suffered between 2001 and 2004, by several agents of the DAS (Administrative Department of Security), due to her work.

In legal matters, the approval of the law on political violence against women contains, in the opinion of FLIP, "definitions so broad that they could lead to censorship or restrict criticism against public figures and officials." The law is pending review by the Constitutional Court. The Court has been warned about the broad definition of violence against women in the exercise of politics, to include "any action, conduct or omission made directly or by third parties, in public or private, based on gender elements, (and that) causes harm or suffering to one or several women or their family, regardless of their political affinity, with the purpose or result of undermining, restricting, preventing, discouraging, making difficult, or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, and exercise of political rights, within the framework of electoral processes."

A bill to strengthen the reporting process is before the Chamber. It includes measures for the priority protection of journalists and citizens who investigate and report acts of corruption. This law creates the Unified System for the Protection of Reporters / Whistleblowers of Acts of Corruption (SUPRAC), which will coordinate and guide the implementation and monitoring of protection mechanisms.

Congress approved the "No Es Hora de Callar" Fund for women journalists. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered this measure in the case of journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima (gender editor of El Tiempo vs. Colombia). The fund seeks to advance the country's design and implementation of public policies, recognizing the differential impacts women journalists suffer.