Catalina Botero, the special rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said Friday that journalists in Colombia lack freedom of expression due to death threats and government spying.
In an interview with W Radio Botero argued that, “It is difficult to to say that there is freedom of expression in a country where the state intelligence agency has a few officials who systematically conduct espionage, stigmatization, and issue death threats against the people who are performing the heroic labor of informing the public what is going on in the country.”
The IACHR official’s comments refer to Colombian security agency DAS’s role in the illegal wiretapping of journalists, judges, human rights activists, and politicians in Colombia.
Botero considers that the country is at a “point of red-alert,”and is close to being added to the list of countries where “you can barely say that there is freedom of expression,” due to the level of threats faced by Colombian journalists,
Botero went on to explain that the IACHR has been in Colombia for the past few years and has “asked the [government] to stop stigmatizing journalists and human rights defenders.”
The spokesperson recalled an incident in which a journalist received a threat saying that they were going to slaughter her daughter, describing the situation as “chilling.”
Botero’s comments come following the publication of an IACHR report on Thursday which included Colombia in a list of countries that need to improve their protection of human rights.
Responding to complaints about the lack of freedom of expression in Colombia, Carlos Franco, director of the presidential Human Rights Program, told W Radio that IACHR reports present Colombia under a very narrow lens, and do not take into account improvements the country has made in recent years.
The Colombian ambassador to the Organization of American States also criticized the IACHR reports on Friday, claiming that Colombia has done a lot to promote press freedom in the country, saying that “the recovery of the monopoly of force by the state and the weakening of organized armed groups outside the law, has meant that journalists have a new environment that facilitates the free exercise of their profession and the expression of opinion.”