Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practise journalism, according to the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s (FLIP) 2012 report.
158 attacks against journalists were registered last year with the majority of which were threats, with 80 recorded cases.
“ was a year that saw a striking increase in threats against journalists across the whole country,” the President of FLIP, Ignacio Gomez, told Colombia Reports.
The president criticized the way the threats are currently being dealt with in Colombia.
“There are 90 protected journalists in the country and we consider these schemes a useless expense, precisely because they are not investigating the origin of these threats and if they are not investigated, they are not resolved. The scheme is put in place today and will continue for the next 15 years because the investigating authorities have not clarified who wants to kill the person,” explained the president.
There were also 29 cases of physical or psychological abuse with a further three journalists injured while covering news. The registered attacks also include one homicide, two kidnappings and nine illegal arrests. There were 24 cases of obstructing a journalist’s work and two cases of hacking. Six people were forcibly displaced, with one person driven to exile and one attempt was made to destroy infrastructure.
According to the report, the perpetrators of 44 of the attacks are unknown; however 31 were committed by Colombia’s security forces, which include the military and the national police. Criminal organisations were responsible for 18 attacks, guerrillas and civil servants for nine a-piece and paramilitaries for four.
“It is important to emphasize that within the statistics related to assassinations, as with threats and attacks against the freedom of press and expression, figures from the the three judicial powers of the political establishment – the government, the legislative and the judicial – are prominent. This is a major concern because in theory the state should be apart from [the press], protecting and promoting the freedom of expression and any element of the state attacks journalists is much more damaging than that of a citizen,” highlighted the president.
The report showed where the attacks took place according to department. Bogota had the highest number of incidents in 2012, with 17, which the report attributes to the fact that Colombia’s capital has more journalists and any other region.
The report also published the results of the Freedom of Expression and Access to Information Index, conducted by the Antonio Narino Project (PAN). 603 journalists were surveyed as part of the project, which launched in 2012, and Colombia was ranked “intermediate” according to the criteria with 50 points out of a possible 100.
Impunity was the most worrying issue and scored only 12 out of 100 points. Many cases of attacks against journalists in Colombia are never brought to justice and the investigations expire before being completed. To date, 59 cases have expired before reaching a conclusion. Two cases expired last year and a further six are due to expire in 2013.
Gomez said that impunity is the result of “a lack of state coordination, a lack of planning, and above all the inefficiency of the Prosecutor General’s office,” and added that if the inefficiency continues, “at some point it is going to cost lives.”
Although the government already provides certain means of protection, Gomez believes that the measures must change in the future to become more effective.
“The government provides 90 protection systems and we are asking for them to change the system so that as well as protecting journalists, it will seek to formally investigate the origin of the threats, so they they can be avoided and important costs can be saved,” asserted the president.
- De las balas de los expedientes: Informe sobre el estado de la libertad de prensa en Colombia, 2012 (FLIP)
- Getting Away With Murder (Committee to Protect Journalists)
- Interview with Ignacio Gomez, President of FLIP