Colombia’s press freedom foundation FLIP blasted the National Army on Saturday for reportedly wiretapping and sending implicit death threats to weekly Semana in collusion with the Bogota mafia.
FLIP condemned the reported criminal activity after weekly Semana made public that last year their editor-in-chief and journalists were intimidated, shadowed and wiretapped.
The magazine reported that, for example, its newsroom received gravestones and that military officials, former military officials with alleged ties to organized crime and members of a local organized crime group were monitoring their office.
During the first half of that year, there were, among other forms of intimidation, letters and direct threats in response to reports that resulted in the dismissal, criminal and disciplinary prosecutions, and the imprisonment of a number of senior officials, including generals.
The intimidation tactics increased in the last quarter of the year when the magazine was investigating the army’s allegedly illegal wiretapping of at least one Supreme Court magistrate, journalists and politicians.
The magazine reported that it has informed the authorities about the army’s alleged criminal activity and published how former National Army commander general Nicasio Martinez lost his job after the Supreme Court raided wiretapping facilities used for illegal purposes.
The magazine published an image of a vehicle reportedly armed with wiretapping equipment and the testimony of a soldier who was paid to infect journalists’ computers with malware that would allow the army access.
A cyber-intelligence colonel offered me 50 million pesos ($15,000) to introduce malware (viruses) into the computers of Semana’s journalists so that they could access the information.
Anonymous intelligence official
Editor-in-chief Alejandro Santos, the nephew of former President Juan Manuel Santos, was additionally shadowed when visiting a cafeteria near the office where he often met with sources, Semana reported.
This shadowing was not just carried out by military personnel, but also by a former colonel who was removed over alleged ties to paramilitary groups.
These men took turns with alleged members of the assassins squad of the so-called San Andresito office, a local organized crime organization.
The FLIP said the threats to Semana are part of a national trend in Colombia where the freedom of the press has increasingly come under attack.
According to the organization, violations of the freedom of press went from 477 in 2018 to 515 in 2019, the highest number since FLIP began registering violations in 2006.
It is especially dramatic that once again the Army is the institution involved in intimidating, threatening and intercepting journalists.
Foundation for the Freedom of the Press
the end of last year, when anti-government protests were occurring throughout Colombia, journalists suffered an unprecedented number of attacks, particularly from the National Police.