Semana sacked Daniel Coronell after the influential columnist criticized Colombia’s leading weekly for informing the government instead of the public over fears the army could return to killing civilians.
In his column on Sunday, the columnist and executive of US television network Univision criticized the magazine’s decision to inform President Ivan Duque‘s chief of staff after concerned military commanders warned the magazine about orders to double the number of combat kills and captures.
The story was eventually published by the New York Times and spurred major public concern; similar orders issued early this century appear to have spurred the mass killing of civilians who were falsely presented as combat kills.
“At Semana we will always defend the freedom of speech”
Ironically, Coronell’s forced departure came two days after director Alejandro Santos, the nephew of former President Juan Manuel Santos, said on Twitter that “at Semana we will always defend the freedom of expression, even when the columnists criticize their publisher.”
En Semana siempre defenderemos la libertad de expresión, aún la de los columnistas que critican a su casa editorial. Actuamos con rigor y responsabilidad y jamás hemos engavetado -ni engavetaremos- investigaciones periodísticas de interés público.#EnSemanaHayLibreExpresión
— Alejandro Santos Rubino (@asantosrubino) May 26, 2019
The columnist on Tuesday told his Twitter followers that Felipe Lopez, the son of former President Alfonso Lopez, “just informed me about the company’s decision to cancel my column.”
— Daniel Coronell (@DCoronell) May 28, 2019
The announcement spurred a major backlash on social media where hashtags like “SemanaCensors, “NoMoreSemana and “OneFollowerLessForSemana became almost instant trending topics on Twitter.
Since Cornell’s tweet, the magazine lost more than 30,000 followers on the social media network, according to Socialblade, a website that monitors social media accounts.
According to influential cartoonist Matador, “Semana has been a journalistic beacon for the country for many decades, with brave journalists carrying out investigations that rocked the country. Today I stopped following them and I hope they reconsider, because [Coronell’s] voice is necessary today more than ever.”
All my solidarity with Coronell who, once again, has given a courageous lesson on how to do independent journalism. This time, I can’t say the same about Semana.
Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco
What is Semana?
The weekly is one of the liberal publications with close ties to the Santos dynasty, which long owned leading newspaper El Tiempo and is also in control of editorial decisions there.
Semana became tremendously influential especially during the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe when it revealed multiple scandals that led to the incarceration of some of the country’s top politicians.
The magazine was founded in 1946 by former President Alberto Lleras, a member of the dynasty to which Santos’ former vice-president, German Vargas, is one of the latest heirs.