The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador and Consul in Colombia asking them reconsider Colombian journalist Hollman Morris’ visa application, according to a press release.
The letter, sent on Tuesday by Alejandro Aguirre, president of the IAPA, and Robert Rivard, president of the Commission of the Freedom of Expression, expressed concern that the visa denial reflects “inappropriately on the journalist, leaving him in a state of defenselessness and vulnerability in front of violent antagonistic groups that might take reprisals.”
The IAPA have requested that the application is reconsidered on the grounds that “Morris has had various entry visas to the United States, where he has received awards, participated in seminars and debates, and he has no criminal record in his country.”
The journalist applied for the visa in order to take up his place as International Neiman Fellow at Harvard University.
According to El Espectador, the U.S. government say they cannot reveal why the visa was denied because the relevant documents are confidential.
However Bob Giles, the curator of the Nieman foundation at Harvard, told press agency Associated Press (AP) that Morris is not allowed to enter the U.S. because the State Department considers him “permanently ineligible for a visa under the ‘Terrorist activities’ section of the USA Patriot Act.”
Giles said he had written to the State Department to ask it to reconsider the decision.
Morris, maker of independent television program Contravia, is a critic of the government of Alvaro Uribe and has reported on ties between right-wing paramilitary death squads and political allies of the president.
According to Morris, Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS was involved in a smear campaign against him, which included efforts to have the journalist’s U.S. visa denied.
Uribe had accused Morris of being “an accomplice of terrorism.” This accusation led to criticism by the U.N., the OAS and international human rights groups.