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Monday, 08 February 2021 17:05

Journalism is not the Enemy

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The Colombian State has again aimed its weapons, resources, and intimidation capacity against journalists. This situation is growing during the economic emergency due to the pandemic affecting the media industry.

An alarming espionage operation, the abuse of police force against the press during demonstrations, and the disdainful and stigmatizing attitude of higher-level officials happen with such a glaring and reiteration, deems it as not impossible to assume it as a message in which the press is understood as opposition, in which there is no tolerance toward critical thinking.

In 2020, the deterioration of the media and of the state of freedom of expression in the country deepened.  Violence against the press occurs with the same systematicity and permissiveness as in past decades, during Colombia's darkest years.   In medium-sized cities such as Puerto Libertador in Córdoba or in capitals such as Arauca, there is no possibility of practicing journalism freely. Dozens of municipalities can be added to these two examples, where reporters must calculate each news before it is published and do their work with the permanent feeling that they will be threatened at some point.


In the last four years, eight journalists have been killed in the country and 618 threats have been reported; it is the second deadliest country on the continent after Mexico. During the year of the pandemic, despite general confinement, 193 journalists were threatened, 10% more than  in 2019.  Two journalists were killed:  Abelardo Liz and Felipe Guevara.  This happens while billions of Colombian pesos are invested in a protection mechanism that has unfortunately lost effectiveness and fails without legitimacy, pending on the promised re-engineering plan.

This atmosphere has enclosed the press into self-censorship. This is admitted by media owners, directors, and reporters alike.  Of course, they do so in a confidential manner. Most of the time, society, which relies on the press to be informed, is not aware of the existence of such self-censorship, or may not know on its prevalence level among journalists. Nonetheless, the price we pay as a society is extremely high, since in a democratic system it is essential that citizens can exercise their right to information on any subject.

Journalism in Colombia is a patient with comorbidities, and the pandemic threatens to send him to intensive care. Despite this, the government ignored the red flags that the journalism sector has waived with force. For President Duque, priorities are in other matters. For example, to install a new paradigm, to normalize his information bubble, and forge a misleading direct dialog with the citizenry. He has spent at least twenty-six billion Colombian pesos on prioritizing his institutional communication and treats it as if it were superior to the plurality that journalism offers. This aggressive strategy strengthens the risk of unprecedented propaganda practices in the country.

In the first weeks of 2021, some signs were given that the Government will finally adopt economic measures for the sector, otherwise the survival of many media, plurality and the future of professional journalism could be jeopardized. 

The dozens of journalists who were followed and spied understand that they are the enemies for the State. The same is assumed by community media reporters and indigenous journalists, who mourn on each murdering of one of their peers.  So do citizens who dare to ask. The only opportunity for this Government to prove them wrong is to investigate and to let the victims know the truth, as it has consistently promised. But it does not do it, and questions remain: Who shoots? Who makes the threats? Who gave the order for the profiling?

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