Despite the signing of a historic peace deal between the government and FARC rebels, press freedom in Colombia decreased over the past year, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
According to the international press organization, Colombia, “continues to be one of the Western Hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for the media.”
While press freedom in Latin America in general improved slightly, Colombia “has only partially fulfilled the hopes raised” by the November 2016 peace deal, the RSF said in its annual report on press freedom.
“Journalists continue to be permanently threatened by “bacrims,” gangs of former paramilitaries now involved in drug trafficking. Death threats, physical attacks, abductions and murders are common,” the RSF noted.
Actions by armed groups such as the ELN with the aim of silencing the alternative or community media that try cover their activities lead to the creation of information “black holes,” especially in rural areas.
Reporters Without Borders
The international press organization said that “violence against journalists, in which local officials are often complicit, usually goes unpunished.”
The RSF report echoed criticism of the country’s own press freedom foundation FLIP, which criticized the country’s government, courts and state officials for failing to advance the freedom of Press.
According to the FLIP, 129 journalists received death threats last year and 31 were victim of assault.
The FLIP was particularly critical of President Juan Manuel Santos, whose family continues to control powerful media like newspaper El Tiempo and weekly Semana.
The president failed to keep his promises in regards to justice for journalists who had been victimized during the country’s armed conflict.
The Santos administration has additionally denied the existence of the “Aguilas Negras,” the paramilitary group that is most active in the threatening of journalists.
The ELN last year kidnapped two Dutch journalists in 2017 after they had entered guerrilla controlled territory in the northeast of the country.