Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa - FLIP

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Today, April 30, 2020, UNESCO announced that Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima has been awarded with the Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, 2020 edition.

The UNESCO Guillermo Cano Award is led by the Guillermo Cano Isaza Foundation and Unesco, with the support of the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation and the Namibia Media Trust. It is the highest worldwide recognition in the field of press freedom.

In all its editions, this award has been a tribute to the legacy and courage of Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza. For 24 years, the award has traveled the world, recognizing courageous journalists who have stood out for their contributions to the defense and promotion of free journalism.

This year, the global award for an outstanding Colombian journalist arrives for the first time to its home country, to highlight journalist Jineth Bedoya, deputy editor of El Tiempo newspaper, director of the No es Hora de Callar (This is no Time to Remain Silent) campaign, defender of women's rights, and champion against impunity for crimes against the press. Jineth is a survivor of the kidnapping, torture and sexual violence she suffered in 2000, when he was part of the judicial newsroom of El Espectador newspaper, the same media that mister Guillermo Cano Isaza led until the last day of his life.

For FLIP, today is an incredibly special and emotional day. We have had the honor of first-hand knowing the rigor and persistence of Jineth Bedoya in the struggle for a free press and against the impunity of her own case. Since 2010, we have supported the judicial representation of her case before the Colombian criminal system and before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an organization that this year will evaluate the international liability of the Colombian State in her case, that was declared as a crime against humanity since 2012.

We call on the Colombian society to applaud Jineth Bedoya for this well-deserved recognition. Her story and struggle are as inspiring as they are important for a country where violence against women, attacks on the press and censorship continue to be attacks on civil liberties that, unfortunately, exist in Colombia.

“I believe that UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano Award is that: to show the world that voices often are much more powerful than the anger and rage of those who want to silence us”: Jineth Bedoya.

“When I met Jineth, I was struck by her tenacity and courage, but I was also shocked to realize how hard the struggle for justice is. Your story, Jineth, is an example for everyone, to continue to advance in the search for justice without hesitation": Guilherme Canela, advisor on Communication and Information of the UNESCO Office.

Published in News

This is a translation by IFEX of an article originally published in our website in spanish. 

In response to Semana magazine’s revelation that the Army has been carrying out a digital surveillance programme, we, the journalists who have been profiled by military intelligence, with support from the Foundation for Press Freedom, express our condemnation of these actions. The majority of the military’s targets were journalists, both local and international, as well as politicians, generals and individuals from non-government organisations and trade unions – at least 130 victims in total.

Beyond our condemnation, however, we demand answers to some questions because, despite the information available, we are unable to fully comprehend the extent of these illegal actions ordered by a security force that, rather than persecuting and stigmatising us, has an obligation to provide guarantees for our work as journalists:

  1. Who gave the order for military intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance and profile journalists and media outlets? These actions constitute a direct attack on guarantees for the free exercise of journalism in Colombia.

  2. One of the purposes of military intelligence is to protect human rights and prevent and combat internal and external threats that compromise national security. Are we, the journalist and media outlets that were targeted with state surveillance, a threat to national security? What criteria were used to justify these actions against the media, applying measures that are meant to combat crime?

  3. Who were the recipients and/or who had access to the files containing the profiles and surveillance information obtained on journalists, politicians and human rights defenders?

  4. What knowledge or information does President Iván Duque, the Minister of Defence or other high level officials possess regarding these illegal surveillance activities? What actions will they take to guarantee that journalists can carry out their work without being targeted by profiling, surveillance and stigmatisation?

According to the Semana magazine investigation, military intelligence operatives carried out an illegal monitoring programme. As such, we demand that the illegally collected information be handed over to the individuals who came under surveillance and were subjected to profiling.

Today, on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, we demand to hear from President Duque’s government and we remind the president of the Colombian government’s obligation has to provide guarantees for press freedom and the free exercise of journalism, which constitute pillars of a democratic society.

Signatories

Journalists who have been targeted with military profiling: 

Juan Forero, The Wall Street Journal

Nicholas Casey, corresponsal de The New York Times

Yolanda Ruiz Ceballos, RCN Radio y columnista de El Espectador

María Alejandra Villamizar, Caracol Radio y Caracol TV

Daniel Coronell, Univisión

Ignacio Gómez, Noticias Uno

Dayana Rodríguez Bernal, Radio Nacional de Colombia

Equipo de Rutas del Conflicto: Óscar Parra, Lidha Beltrán Valero, Luisa María Rincón Guzmán, Paula Andrea Hernández Vargas, María del Pilar Puentes Espinosa, David Leonardo Riaño Valencia, Silvia Natalia Corredor Rodríguez, María Jimena Neira Niño, Alvaro Andrés Avendaño Alba, Juan Pablo Gómez Peña, Carol Lizeth Sánchez Fonnegra, Nicole Acuña Cepeda, Juana Teresa Callejas, Fernanda Barbosa dos Santos, Germán Alejandro Ballesteros Coral, Santiago Luque Pérez, Ricardo Sánchez Gómez, Richard Stiven Romero Trochez, Daniela Aguirre

John Otis, corresponsal de NPR y del Comité para la Protección de los Periodistas -CPJ-

Stephen Ferry, independiente

Camilo Poveda, Blu Radio

Andrés Cardona Cruz, fotorreportero, Florencia

Federico Ríos, fotoperiodista

Nicolás Bedoya, fotoperiodista

Christian Escobar Mora, fotoperiodista

Karem Racines, periodista independiente que escribe para La Liga Contra el Silencio

Ginna Morelo, La Liga Contra el Silencio

Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa -FLIP-

This petition is supported by:

Jineth Bedoya Lima, Premio Unesco Guillermo Cano 2020 y SubEditora de El Tiempo

Cecilia Orozco, Noticias Uno

Jaime Abello Banfi, director de la Fundación Gabo

José Manuel Acevedo, Noticias RCN

Juanita León, directora de La Silla Vacía

Maria Teresa Ronderos, Junta Directiva del Comité para la Protección de Periodistas -CPJ.

Camilo Acosta, La Liga Contra el Silencio

Camilo Sánchez, La Liga Contra el Silencio

José Díaz, La Liga Contra el Silencio

Sara Castillejo, La Liga Contra el Silencio

Jeanneth Valdivieso, La Liga Contra el Silencio

Fidel Cano, director de El Espectador

Gustavo Gómez, Caracol Radio

Diana Calderón, Caracol Radio

Érika Fontalvo, directora de El Heraldo

Diana Durán, El Espectador

Néstor Morales, Blu Radio

Camila Zuluaga, Blu Radio y Noticias Caracol

Damián Esteban Landínez Cañón, Blu Radio

Mabel Lara, Noticias Uno

Darío Fernando Patiño, periodista

Rodrigo Uprimny, columnista El Espectador

José Guarnizo, periodista independiente

Ernesto Cortés, editor general de El Tiempo

Juan Roberto Vargas, director de Noticias Caracol

Alberto Medina, subdirector de Noticias Caracol

Fernando Ramírez, editor de Noticias de La Patria

Camilo Vallejo, columnista de La Patria

Omar Rincón, crítico de tv, El Tiempo

Esperanza Rico L. directora del Sistema Informativo de RCN Radio

Francisco Leal Mateus, periodista y abogado independiente

Jairo Ernesto Tarazona, periodista de RCN Radio

Dora Montero, periodista de Noticias RCN y Presidenta de CdR

Sinar Alvarado, columnista en The New York Times

Nathan Jaccard, editor Latam OCCRP

Claudia Julieta Duque, Radio Nizkor

Carlos Eduardo Huertas, director Connectas

Patricia Gomez, RCN

Juan David Laverde, periodista de Noticias Caracol

Juan Diego Restrepo E., Verdad Abierta

Bibiana Ramírez, VerdadAbierta

Olga Behar, periodista independiente

Carmen Rosa Pabón, periodista Arauca

Sara Trejos, Presunto Podcast

Maru Lombardo, Presunto Podcast

Santiago Rivas, Presunto Podcast

Javier Osuna, director Fahrenheit 451

Lorenzo Morales, colaborador de La Liga Contra el Silencio y Cerosetenta

Óscar Durán, CrossmediaLab de la Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano

Juan Camilo Maldonado, Mutante

Elizabeth Otálvaro, Mutante

Natalia Ospina, Mutante

María Claudia Dávila, Mutante

Luisa Rengifo, Mutante

Laura Cruz, Mutante

Juliana Castellanos, directora Unidad de Investigación Periodística del Poli

Alejandro Gómez Dugand, Cerosetenta

Natalia Arenas, Cerosetenta

Tania Tapia, Cerosetenta

Manuela Saldarriaga,Cerosetenta

María Fernanda Fitzgerald, Cerosetenta

Sebastián Payán, Cerosetenta

Natalia Botero Duque, fotoperiodista

Betty Martínez, Diario del Norte y TuuPutchika en La Guajira

Jorge Cárdenas, periodista Villavicencio

Adriana Villegas, columnista de La Patria

Alejandro Samper Arango, columnista de La Patria

Martín Franco Vélez, columnista de La Patria

Fabio Posada, periodista independiente

Julián Martínez, periodista independiente

Cesar Molinares, periodista independiente

Catalina Loboguerrero, periodista independiente

Camilo Jiménez Santofimio, periodista independiente

Óscar Sánchez, periodista independiente

Carlos Chica, defensor de audiencias del Canal Capital

Mauricio Beltrán, director de Fedemedios

Claudia Marcela Mejía, periodista independiente

María Paulina Baena, La Pulla

Patricia Nieto, periodista de Hacemos Memoria Universidad de Antioquia

Karim Ganem Maloof, El Malpensante

Maryluz Vallejo, Directo Bogotá

Belén Pardo, Vokaribe Radio

Ivan Mercado, Vokaribe Radio

Patricia Rendón, Vokaribe Radio

Walter Hernández, Vokaribe Radio

Alfredo González, Vokaribe Radio

Octavio González, Vokaribe Radio

Equipo editorial Actualidad Panamericana

PACIFISTA!

La Cola de Rata

Carolina Guerrero, Radio Ambulante

Daniel Alarcón, Radio Ambulante

David Trujillo, Radio Ambulante

Camila Segura, Radio Ambulante

Laura Rojas Aponte, Radio Ambulante

Constanza Bruno, periodista independiente

Fernanda Pineda, fotorreportera

Natalia Guerrero Ulloa, periodista independiente

Santiago Wills, periodista independiente

Andrea Aldana, periodista de El Poder en Semana TV / Investigadora Fundación Paz y Reconciliación Colombia

Paula Thomas, Reojo colectivo

Charlie Cordero, Reojo colectivo

Santiago Mesa, Reojo colectivo

Andrés Buitrago, Reojo colectivo

Gerald Bermúdez, periodista y fotorreportero freelance

Andrés Páramo, periodista independiente

Diego Alarcón, periodista independiente

Laila Abu Shihab Vergara, periodista independiente

Carlos Cortés Castillo, La Mesa de Centro

MaryLuz Avendaño, periodista independiente

César Rojas Ángel, periodista independiente

Gloria Castrillón, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Natalia Herrera, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Laura Dulce Romero, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Beatriz Valdes, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Nicolás Sánchez, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Sebastián Forero, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Carolina Ávila, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Edinson Bolaños, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Valentina Parada, Colombia 2020 de El Espectador

Ramiro Bejarano Guzmán, columnista de El Espectador

Alexánder Marín, editor sección Bogotá, El Espectador

Sergio Silva, El Espectador

Alejandra Bonilla Mora, El Espectador

David Tarazona, Cuestión Pública

Diana Salinas, Cuestión Pública

Claudia Báez, Cuestión Pública

Mariana Escobar Roldán, periodista independiente

Natalia Arbeláez, La Silla Vacía

Laura Ardila, La Silla Vacía

Blanca Berrío, periodista de Zenú Radio

Angélica Cuevas, periodista independiente

Tatiana Pardo, periodista independiente

Andrés Bermúdez, periodista independiente

Alejandro Pino, director editorial de Publimetro

German Calvo, Cuarto de Hora

Cindy Morales, periodista

Rafael Quintero, editor de datos de El Tiempo

Julio César Guzmán, editor de El Tiempo

Carlos Solano, director de la Escuela de Periodismo Multimedia de El Tiempo

Juan David López, periodista de El Tiempo

Ricardo Galán, director de Libreta de Apuntes

José Marulanda, periodista de Unicauca Estéreo

José Gabriel Celis, Rotonda Deportiva

Felipe Restrepo Pombo, escritor, editor y periodista

Sandra Castro, Red de Medios Alternativos y Populares

Jorge Luis Galeano Bolaños, director de Hechoencali.com

Laura Sofía Mejía, directora y cofundadora de Baudó Agencia Pública

Victor Hugo Soto Galeano, fotoperiodista y cofundador de Baudó Agencia Pública

Angie Salazar Marmolejo, Comunicación externa y digital de Baudó Agencia Pública

Mateo Medina Abad, estudiante de Comunicación Social de la Universidad Javeriana

Programa de Periodismo y Opinión Pública de la Universidad del Rosario

Beatriz Elena Marín Ochoa, presidenta de la Asociación Colombiana de Investigadores en Comunicación -Acicom-

Red de Corresponsales de la FLIP: Javier Jules (Bogotá), Sonia Godoy (Cauca), Orlado Cetina (Huila y Amazonas), Luis Oñate (Magdalena), Germán Arenas (Putumayo), Carmen Rosa Pabón (Arauca), Jorge Cárdenas (Meta), Betty Martínez (La Guajira), César Pizarro (San Andrés), Ángel Romero (Norte de Santander), Ricardo Cipagauta (Boyacá), Juan Pablo Sánchez (Caquetá), Ana María Saavedra (Valle del Cauca), Máryuri Trujillo (Tolima), Yeison Rojas (Urabá Antioqueño), Félix Quintero (Santander).

Miguel Orlando Alguero, La Patria

Blanca Eugenia Giraldo, La Patria

Julián Guerrero, Revista Cartel Urbano

Alejandro Villegas Oyola, RCN Radio

Angélica Latorre Coronado, periodista independiente

Diego Delgado, coordinador de Documental Amarillo

Carol Valencia, Consejo de Redacción (CdR)

Diana Carolina Ampudia Castillo, Red+ Noticias

Santiago Restrepo, ingeniero aeronáutico e investigador independiente

Priyanka Arias, SOS Mamá (Encuentroradio.co)

Valeria Murcia, El Colombiano

Luis Carlos Vélez, periodista

Luz María Tobón Vallejo, periódico El Mundo

Luis Carlos Gómez, editor general de Colprensa

José Luis Peñarredonda, periodista independiente

Paula Pinzón, periodista independiente

David Pereañez, periodista independiente

María Isabel Moreno, periodista independiente

Edison Henao, periodista independiente

Miren Vitore Magyaroff, Publimetro

Jénnifer Mejía, periodista independiente

Valentina Arango, periodista independiente

Laura Castrillón, periodista independiente

Gonzalo Guillén, La Nueva Prensa

Diana López zuleta, La Nueva Prensa

Julián F. Martínez, La Nueva Prensa

Daniel Mendoza Leal, La Nueva Prensa

Juan Trujillo, La Nueva Prensa

Jorge A. Sánchez Vargas, periodista independiente

Wílver Raíllo Pitalúa, director programa radial Ciudad Global

Jamie Paola López Albarracín, estudiante de último semestre de Periodismo y Opinión Pública de la Universidad del Rosario.

Fátima Martínez, profesora de Periodismo del Programa de Periodismo de la Universidad del Rosario y directora del medio digital universitario de la facultad PlazaCapital.co

Red Colombiana de Periodismo Universitario y sus medios integrantes: Datéate al minuto, Tinta Negra (Uniminuto Bogotá), Unimedios (Universidad Santiago de Cali), Un Pretexto (Universidad de Boyacá), Norte Urbano (Uniminuto Bello), Ciudad Vaga (Universidad del Valle), En Primera Persona (Universidad Católica de Pereira), Periódico 15 (Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga), Entre Nos, El Anzuelo Medios (Universidad de Ibagué), Contexto (Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana – Medellín), De la Urbe (Universidad de Antioquia), Sextante (Universidad Católica Luis Amigó), Unisabana Medios (Universidad de La Sabana), Bitácora, Nexos (Universidad EAFIT), Página, UniDiario, La UM Central (Universidad de Manizales), Unicomedio, Unicomfacauca Radio (Unicomfacauca), CrossmediaLab (Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano – Bogotá), Conexión Lasallista (Corporación Universitaria Lasallista), Ágora, Miradas y Voces (Universidad de Pamplona), Plataforma, Estación V (Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana – Bucaramanga), Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira

International journalists:

Mónica González, periodista independiente, Chile

Peter Limbourg, director general de la Deutsche Welle

Carsten von Nahmen, director de la Deutsche Welle Akademie

Rodrigo Villarzú, director DW Akademie América Latina

Fabiola Gutiérrez, La Pública, Bolivia

Marcela Turati, periodista independiente, México

Miguel Dimayuga, fotorreportero revista Proceso, México

Lise Josefsen Hermann, periodista freelance, Ecuador, Dinamarca

Raul Romero fotorreportero, Venezuela

Nicola Frioli, fotógrafo, Italia

Sara Aliaga T., fotorreportero, Bolivia

Román Camacho, fotoperiodista, Venezuela

Desirée Esquivel, periodista en Ciencia del Sur, Paraguay

Isabela Ponce, GK, Ecuador

Luz Mely Reyes, directora de Efecto Cocuyo, Venezuela

Fabiola Torres, Salud con Lupa, Perú

Thelma Gómez, periodista independiente, México

Francesco Manetto, El País de España

Catalina Oquendo, El País de España

Santiago Torrado, El País de España

Pere Ortín, periodista y documentalista, director Altair Magazine, España

Paulette Desormeaux, periodista independiente, Chile

Diego Salazar, periodista independiente, Perú

Periodistas Sin Cadenas, Ecuador

La Barra Espaciadora, Ecuador

Martha Pskowski, editora de Latin America News Dispatch con sede en Nueva York

Liza López, directora de Historias que laten, Venezuela

Jonathan Gutiérrez, editor de Historias que laten, Venezuela

María Fernanda Rodríguez, corresponsal de El Pitazo y de IPYS Venezuela

Rafael Sulbarán, periodista independiente de Venezuela

APIC, Asociación de Prensa Internacional en Colombia

Published in News

This is a translation by IFEX of an article originally published in our website in spanish. 

In response to an article published by Semana magazine, titled ‘Las carpetas secretas’ (‘The Secret Files’), and other information we have gleaned, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) states the following:

  1. We emphatically condemn the ongoing and intensifying profiling and surveillance of journalists by state intelligence agencies in Colombia. These practices—which are characteristic of authoritarian regimes—contravene the government’s freedom of expression obligations and raise questions about society’s right to information and guarantees for the work of journalists.

  2. On this particular occasion, profiling and surveillance of journalists by Colombian military intelligence agencies was carried out on a massive scale, and includes some cases of reckless descriptions of journalists as operating outside the law based on inferences and evaluations of articles they have written.  This represents a dangerous characterisation originating from military evaluation and classification of information that is relevant in a democratic environment, placing it within a wartime context. The profiles created contain both publicly-available and private information, including information about the individual’s families. No prior authorisation was obtained and, as such, the collection and analysis of sensitive portions of the information violates the purpose and principals of the Intelligence Law.

  3. FLIP knows of at least 30 journalists who have been profiled in this manner. To date, information has been collected on María Alejandra Villamizar (Caracol Radio), Juan Forero (The Wall Street Journal), Daniel Coronell (Univisión), Federico Ríos (freelance for The New York Times), Óscar Parra (Rutas del Conflicto), Stephen Ferry (independent), Ginna Morelo (La Liga Contra el Silencio), Yolanda Ruiz (RCN Radio), Ignacio Gómez (Noticias UNO), Lindsay Addario (independent), Nicholas Casey (The New York Times), Jhon Otis (Committee to Protect Journalists and NPR) and a journalist and producer for Blu Radio. The Rutas del Conflicto (Conflict Routes) and La Liga Contra el Silencio (League Against Silence) media outlets have also been profiled.

  4. Defence Minister Holmes Trujillo, the Office of the Attorney General and the current military leadership have all been aware of these actions since at least January 2020. The measures set out by the Defence Ministry to deal with the issue, however, were announced in a statement on social media just a few hours before Semana published its article. In its statement, the Defence Ministry outlined investigative and disciplinary actions there were being undertaken to deal with activities within the military’s ranks that could contravene the Intelligence Law, in addition to infringing on citizens’ rights and harming the military’s image. Disciplinary actions included mention of 11 officers who would be removed from their posts.
 
 

The Supreme Court has also had information and evidence about the surveillance since December 2019, when court officials carried out a search at a military facility but there have been no advances in the investigation. As such, FLIP, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are requesting a meeting with Colombia’s president. A meeting with the president was originally scheduled for 16 March, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 health emergency.

  1. Faced with the impossibility of knowing exactly how many journalists have been affected by these actions and noting that more than three months have passed during which the Colombian mechanisms for protecting the press have been inoperational, on 4 March 2020 FLIP and CPJ filed a request for precautionary measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR is currently evaluating the request for international protection. With this statement, FLIP is confirming the urgent need for the IACHR to activate the inter-American system’s precautionary protective measures for the journalists and media outlets that have been subjected to military intelligence profiling.

  2. The profiling of journalists by the military represents an action that violates the objectives of intelligence and counter-intelligence operations, overstepping boundaries and threatening democracy and public debate. The statement released by the Defence Ministry is insufficient as it characterises the activities as “irregularities”, when in reality they constitute a serious violation of press freedom and human rights in general. There have been no answers regarding the objectives served by processing and analysing the information used to develop the profiles. There is no apparent relationship with the objectives and boundaries of intelligence work contained in Article 4 of the Intelligence Law and in the Constitutional Court’s 2012 review and ruling on the law.

  3. FLIP views the Defence Ministry’s statement as insufficient and as such calls on the national government, as the highest civilian and military authority, to publicly provide explanations that, at minimum, cover the following information: i) the origin of the profiling and surveillance activities, ii) the purpose of the activities, iii) the military and political agencies that had access to the information collected, iv) the President’s position regarding the activities and associated concerns, v) the specific findings that resulted in the removal of 11 officers from their posts, and vi) actions that will be taken to ensure that these security force activities come to an end.

  4. FLIP calls on the National Army to stop profiling local and international journalists and ensure that military personnel are aware that evaluation of journalistic content is the exclusive jurisdiction of the judiciary, to be conducted within a public and transparent framework.

    The Defence Ministry, which must be guided by human rights standards, should know that treating journalists as intelligence targets is in and of itself a serious violation of the right to press freedom and affects the conditions within which society may receive information on topics of public interest.

  1. We, at FLIP, will continue monitoring this situation, informing journalists who we can verify have been subjected to profiling.

  2. FLIP will also activate judicial and disciplinary control mechanisms and will call on the Colombian government to implement a monitoring program of its own. In addition, we will insist on the need for international observation and protection—particularly from the IACHR and diplomatic corps of the countries of origin of the international journalists who have been profiled—in order to re-establish democratic guarantees for press freedom in Colombia.

What is profiling?

The information collected by the military includes contact lists of the journalists profiled, as well as notes on race, religion, family members, friends, sources and home addresses, among others. The information also includes comments or “conclusions” referring to inferences made by military analysts regarding journalists’ political orientations. Geo-referencing information is included in some cases, detailing the locations visited by the journalists over several months. In addition, journalists’ social media interactions have been documented, and comments such as the following may be viewed: “Juan Forero: Is friends with León Valencia and supports the Green party. FARC supporter.” Comments such as these represent directed, stigmatising and reckless inferences that put the safety of journalists at risk.

  • In one of the cases, the profiling of the journalist began as a result of disparaging comments made by a public official, who said that the journalist had received money from an armed group in order to publish false information, when in reality the journalistic work in question was legitimate and of high public interest.

  • Some of the profiling cases included reconstruction of journalists’ contacts network, in addition to profiling of the contacts. From this it can be inferred that the military has information on sources that have provided information to journalists, thus violating the right of journalists to protect their sources and the obligation of the government to guarantee that right.

  • Various media outlets and journalists were included by the military in a Twitter list created on the National Army’s official account, titled “Opposition”. The list was deleted after public complaints were raised on 11 March.

  • The purpose of the profiling is not yet known, but the military’s analysis and questioning of the work of journalists gives serious cause for concern, particularly the inference that media personnel have presumed links with groups operating outside the law. Stigmatisation by officials, in which they, without proof, link journalists to illegal actions or organisations, is very dangerous. These inferences could be understood as a signal for members of the security forces, or even third parties that know of the profiling, to perpetrate attacks on the press.
Published in News

We worked in partnership with IFEX to produce this video about the role played by journalists in defending freedom of expression and the right to information.

See the story of Guillermo Cano Isaza, Jineth Bedoya Lima and Edison Molina and their fidhts against impunity.

This video pays tribute to all Colombian journalists who have been threatened, attacked, or murdered because of their work.

 

Published in News

Efigenia Vásquez was deadly hurt while exercising her right to freedom of expression as a journalist in Purace, Cauca (southern Colombia). The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) considers the hypothesis that Vasquez’ death was due to a “multiple charge projectile” shot by an agent of the riot police ESMAD.

On October 8, the 31 years old journalist was covering and taking part of a protest held by members from the Kokonuko indigenous group. The protest was intended to claim communal property over an area in power of businessman Diego Angulo, owner of the touristic complex “Aguas Tibias”.

At 4 PM, the Kokonuko group blocked the entrance to “Aguas Tibias” where ESMAD officers were placed. ESMAD officers confronted the demonstrators, causing their retreat to the higher mountains. 40 natives, including Vasquez, were hurt, affirmed to FLIP Governor Isneldo Avirama.

From 18 to 20 October, FLIP representatives went to the Kokonuko area in Purace, Cauca. FLIP held conversations with members of the indigenous group present at the time of the events as well as with persons with close relationship to the query being developed by the Prosecutor’s office and with Vasquez’ family. FLIP queried about the facts and about the general conditions for freedom of expression of the Kokonuko group.

Cauca is a silenced zone. A significant part of the territory does not have any media producing local information. Among its 42 municipalities, 24 have no media, 16 have some local information and just two of them, Popayán and Santander de Quilichao, have a minimum amount of variety. Among the 75 media existing in Cauca, only 22 have informative or news centered programs.

Renacer Kokonuko 90.7 FM operates in this context of silence. It is the only media existing in Purace and it is located in a small house inside the indigenous area. It only counts with the minimal equipment required to broadcast. It’s broadcast power is 250 kw, which only allows it to cover 10 round kilometers. For this reason, around 40% of Purace’s people are not being able to access the station’s signal. The majority of the nine persons working at the station are peasants dedicated to farming as their main activity. They work on their free time as volunteers at Renacer.

Part of the station’s content are related to self-government. In its 15 years of existence, Renacer has built up enough capacity to inform about confrontations with authorities. “The indigenous council demands us to be present in order to gather evidences of what is going on”, says Emildre Avirama, who works at Renacer. Regarding these subjects, the radio station provides orientation to Purace’s people on how to act. “When confrontations arise, our colleagues say to us ¡Tell everyone that the community is needed in the place! Says Avirama.

On 13 June, the community was preparing a protest in order to demand the government to award property over the “Aguas Tibias” area. However, according to ex gobernor Fabio Avirama, at 5 am ESMAD surrounded the radio station and attempted to come into it. Journalist Jesus Melengue was there. “They wanted to shut down communications: damage the equipment in order to prevent broadcasting”. Melengue alerted the other members of the community, who reached the area. “The attack against our communicators was prevented hanks to the community’s bravery”, said Avirama to FLIP.

On 12 july, during a new wave of confrontations, electricity went out in Renacer Kokonuko for several hours. The latter impeded the communicators to inform about the protest. According to the communicators, there is no doubt that this was executed by the Police. “It is not appropriate to them that we spread reality”, says Emildre Hol Avirama.

On July, FLIP attempted, without response, to contact ESMAD in order to obtain their version on the facts. Last week, FLIP went to the police office in Popayan to inquire about these facts. Until now, no officer has acceded to talk to FLIP.

Two days after Vasquez’ death, a community member, whose name is reserved, was taking care of the station when a van and a motorcycle came. The journalist was asked to tell the name of the people working at Renacer. She demanded the persons to identify themselves and to explain their motives. The persons only insisted in demanding the communicators’ names. Since the journalist gave no response and did not open the door, the persons left claiming that they would return. Until now, they did not come back.

Since being a teenager, Efigenia was interested in communication. For that reason, starting at 17, she was invited to take part in capacity building events regarding self-communication and journalism. With the passing of time, Efigenia got to make part of the communications team at the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) and to participate in Renacer Kokonuko. She contributed to the “Amanecer Indigena” and to the “minga” shows, dedicated to cultural subjects.

Efigenia took part of workshops held by the Deutsche Welle as well as in self-communication seminars in other parts of the country. She also was present in different international scenarios with indigenous journalists in Latin America.

Efigenia, when not cultivating strawberries, contributed to the radio station. However, since two years ago, she reduced her participation in Renacer. Her mother Ilda Astudillo says that Efigenia was in charge of her three sons since she got separated from her couple. Therefore, assisting to the radio station was hard.

The authorities still recognized Efigenia as a communicator and member of Renacer. According to Emildre Avirama, “her role in the radio station cannot be unrecognized”. Sitting in a plastic chair in her daughter’s house, Ilda Astudillo tells FLIP that “Efigenia was thinking on coming back to the radio station… but it wasn’t possible”.

On that Eighth of october Efigenia Vasquez went to the mobilization with her fellow community members in order to demand the communal property over the area belonging to Angulo. Emildre Avirama claims that Indigenous council ordered to cover the mobilization and its developments. Vasquez had the duty to contribute in documenting the facts: “she had the same task as us: to record” says Avirama.

FLIP had video confirmation that, around 4 pm and after the demonstrations started, ESMAD left “Aguas Tibias” and faced the community in an area inside indigenous territory.

Edward Avirama, coordinator of the Kokonuko indigenous guard, the demonstrators ran away in fear of the guns being used by ESMAD: “The community was throwing rocks from above the mountain and gunshots were heard”. Avirama tells that the situation escalated because the gunshots could come from firearms being used against the community.

Minutes after the gunshots were heard, Efigenia Vasquez fell to the ground: “that was the moment in which I asked for help to my colleague and we saw that she was badly hurt”, says Avirama. The guard members requested an ambulance to transfer the communicator to a medical center, but the vehicle never arrived. According to Avirama, the driver said that he was not allowed to enter the zone.

The emergency forced the community to look for a vehicle to transfer Vasquez to a health center. However, community members claim that the officers intimidated the driver: “ESMAD was located in part of the road and pointed the gun to discourage him from picking her”, says a native present the day of the facts.

A few hours after the confrontation, Efigenia Vasquez died while receiving treatment at San José de Popayán’s Hospital. According to forensics, her death was caused by the multiple wounds caused by the projectiles in her chest. Efigenia could have died due to pellets fired from a fire gun, such as a shotgun or to an shrapnel artifact’s explosion.

Two days after, Police Major General William Salamanca declared to Popayan media that the wounds received by Vásquez were not caused by ESMAD. “Pellet, artifacts and guns of this kind (unconventional) are not used by the Police”, said the Major General. “In my opinion, the indigenous are the ones to blame, those who came with her faces covered and using unconventional firearms are the ones who could have caused the journalist’s disease”, he concluded.

On 25 October, FLIP received a communication from the Colonel Pompy Arubal Pinzon Commander of Popayan´s Police. The communication reaffirmed the declarations given by General Salamanca and added that “The mentioned lady (Vásquez) was not undertaking communicative duties (...) au contraire, she had an active role in the different indigenous demonstrations”.

This version is not accepted by the indigenous authorities. “They have attacked us with ´recalzadas´”, says Edward Avirama referring to the multiple charge ammunition allegedly used by ESMAD. “The government can claim that they are just using gases, but we can affirm that they are making recalzadas”, says Avirama.

FLIP confirmed through sources close to the general prosecutor’s enquiry that there are three hypothesis for the case. First, Efigenia could have died due to a shrapnel explosive launched by either one of the parts in conflict. Second, Efigenia could have died due to a projectile coming from ESMAD. The third hypothesis points to Efigenia dying due to “friendly fire” when demonstrators unintentionally triggered an explosive and causing the deadly wounds.

FLIP had access to a one minute 20 video from the events. This material, part of the prosecutor’s enquiry, shows a general view of the confrontation until an explosion occurs. Afterwards, the camera focuses on a ESMAD member that points and shoots his grenade launcher towards an indigenous group. Efigenia was among those persons. The camera shows a person, apparently Efigenia, who is then aided by other natives.

The forensics report states that the anatomic trajectory of the wounds comes from the front to the back. This would help to conclude that the impact came from in front of her and that the projectile never came out of her body. Moreover, when Efigenia fell wounded, the Police was at approximately 56 meters from the natives. The autopsy showed that Efigenia’s wounds had no traces of gunpowder. This would show that there was more than one and a half meter of distance between the gun and the journalist’s body.

10 september 2015, when Flor Alba Nuñez was killed by gunmen in Pitalito Huila, was the last time in which a journalist was killed by reasons related to their journalistic work.

FLIP condemns the murder of Efigenia Vásquez while doing journalistic duties during the confrontations of October 8. This crime is also an attack against the Kokonuko’s freedom of expression and information.

FLIP encourages the General Prosecutor’s office to make a diligent enquiry to determine who caused Efigenia’s dead. Moreover, FLIP encourages that same office to determine if Efigenia’s killer acted following orders. FLIP also invites the Police and the indigenous authorities in Cauca to publicly condemn the use of nonconventional weapons by their members.

FLIP demands the Procurator to, based on FLIP statistics, establish monitoring measures and criteria based on attacks by ESMAD against the press. Such a duty should be done to seek an improvement of ESMAD use of force according to international standards.

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Background

ESMAD has been a repeated aggressor of the press, especially during public demonstrations. Throughout the year, FLIP has registered six cases in which ESMAD agents attacks and stigmatizes journalists. On August, during a mining strike in Northeast Antioquia, officers accused a journalist of revolting. Moreover, the officers attempted to take the journalist’s camera (http://bit.ly/2h6Gxxd). On 15 August, Alexei Castaño of Caracol Radio and Red+ Noticias was attacked with tear gas by members of ESMAD during protests at Doña Juana´s landfill (http://bit.ly/2zAVMVG). On mid-july, during confrontations between peasants and public forzes in Meta, Heliana Montoya from Red de Medios Alternativos – Agencia Colombiana de Prensa Popular (REMA-Acpp) was attacked and detained by riot police (http://bit.ly/2h7pE5v). On May,  Pedro Garcia of El Turbión was seriously injured due to a bullet impact during Nasa indigenous group demonstrations in Cauca (http://bit.ly/2yP4p22).

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Today, 25 May, marks 17 years since Jineth Bedoya Lima fell victim to a series of grave acts. 

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In the years after she was abducted and brutally assaulted while reporting on violence at a maximum-security prison, award-winning journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima has fought tirelessly to bring the issue of sexual violence against women into the public consciousness.
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Journalist Jineth Bedoya has had to give over 11 accounts of her abduction, torture and sexual assault at the hands of Colombian paramilitaries. On 1 March, she must testify again. IFEX and FLIP are calling on the Colombian Attorney General’s Office, the IACHR and the judge overseeing the trial to ensure that this time, justice is served.

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