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Friday, 15 January 2021 16:43

Delays in Convictions to the Author of Threats to Three Journalists

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For more than two years, the case for death threats against Daniel Samper Ospina, Matador and María Antonia García de la Torre has not been resolved. Journalists were threatened via Twitter by Ariel Ortega between March and April 2018. One of the tweets said, “Bastard fool, you live on insulting, and when you are told the truth in your silly face you weep like a sissy girl. We miss the AUC so much to silence this meddler!”

The events quickly became media disseminated, and the Office of the Prosecutor itself rejected the threats and assured that the investigation would be a priority. Also, the Minister of Defense of that time, Luis Carlos Villegas, ordered the National Police to investigate the threats to 'Matador'. Villegas indicated that "those who hide on a telephone or computer to obstruct free expression must also receive the weight of the law."

Despite initial support from national entities, the case has progressed truly little.

Since February 4, 2019, the Office of the Prosecutor has accused Ortega as the alleged perpetrator of the threats. The Office of the Prosecutor has sufficient evidence to ensure that Ortega is the author of the threats. In fact, in 2018 Ortega accepted that the tweets had been his own and publicly said that he was repentant

In June of the same year, the defense filed a request for the principle of opportunity with the Prosecutor's Office. This would give Ortega the chance to have an absolutory judgment. The process lasted approximately 6 months and never advanced. The Office of the Prosecutor insisted several times even though the victims expressed their disagreement. That is why the request never had a chance to move forward.

After more than a year in which the case did not move forward, only until November 4 of this year did the preparatory hearing begin. It is intended that all the evidence on the case be made known for consideration at the trial. However, there is still time for the moment for the sentence to take place, as the preparatory hearing has not even ended, and the judge is still waiting to reschedule it. 

One year has elapsed between each of the hearings in the process. It is difficult to understand how a case that a priority for the Office of the Prosecutor was turned out to be delayed by the same entity. There are few answers to why the process has been so delayed, when this was a case with evidence and the author was identified from the beginning. 

“It is imperative that a precedent is set, and that there be an exemplary punishment for Ariel Ortega, because the message of zero tolerance should be sent in the face of death threats on social networks against journalists”: Maria Antonia.

 

Threats: A major Problem in Colombia

 

FLIP has recorded that threats are the main assault on journalists. Each year cases increase, almost to double. In 2016, 90 intimidations against journalists took place; the following year, 129; in 2018, 200 cases were reported, and in 2019, 137 threats were filed. Along the same lines, Reporters Without Borders ranks Colombia as the country 130 with the worst rating to exercise press freedom. 

These threats have a frightening and deterrent effect, that leads to the silencing of the press. Where there is fear, the product of possible attacks related to journalistic work, and an environment of self-containment or self-censorship is promoted. 

“Threatening a journalist to death, not only affects that particular human being and his family; it endangers press freedom, strengthens censorship, and empowers those hidden forces that use violence as a means of coercion.” Maria Antonia.

The lack of compliance and speed with investigations in cases of attacks on the press, leads to the chronic recurrence of violence, since it can be understood that there will be no exemplary sanctions. The Office of the Prosecutor and the judges need to make prompt and diligent progress in these cases to deter attacks on the press and combat a hostile environment against online press.