A flood of reported cases of abuse against Colombian journalists in the last two days of national protests led an international journalist watchdog group to pen an open letter to President Juan Manuel Santos Friday, making a “strong call” for increased protections for reporters operating in Colombia.
Reporters Without Borders, a self-described “international organization for the defense of the freedom of information”, says it collected reports of more than 20 cases of physical violence against Colombian journalists over the course of Wednesday and Thursday alone.
The letter asks that “exhaustive and impartial investigations” be launched into each of the abuses, which occurred in as many as nine different departments across the country, and says that the “stigmatization [of journalists] for having informed on a given fact or having done so in a way contrary to the interests of particular agressors has been a constant danger” in the country.
No incidents are mentioned specifically, but denouncements of death threats and abuse have been made in other forums by members of the alternative press reporting on protests in Cauca, Valle and Boyaca.
Neither does the letter specify who was responsible for any of the abuses. Traditionally, journalists in Colombia have faced attacks and intimidation from paramilitaries on the extreme right of Colombian politics, and indeed, prior to protests, right-wing drug cartel Los Rastrojos made public threats against journalists covering the protests. But in cases of abuse that have been reported publicly since Monday, military and anti-riot forces have been the alleged perpetrators.
In Boyaca, for example, where protesters have called for human rights intervention, several journalists from Colombia’s alternative press claimed a police commander threatened to kill them if they didn’t stop filming a conflict between protesters and police forces.
According to the letter, international human rights groups have also been notified as to the situation facing journalists covering the Colombian protests.
Representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture and the Interior declined to comment on the accusations, or announce any actions being taken by the government to protect the flow of information in Colombia.