Following an assassination attempt on one of Colombia’s most prominent investigative journalists, international press and human rights organizations on Thursday called on the Colombian government to act to find the perpetrators of the crime.
“The attack on Ricardo Calderon shows that Colombian journalists still face grave danger when reporting on sensitive issues,” said Carlos Lauria, the senior program coordinator in the Americas for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a report published on their website. “Authorities must send the message that such attacks will not be tolerated by conducting a thorough investigation and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
Human Rights Watch also sent a message to the country saying, “Colombia should ensure that the investigation into the attack on a leading investigative journalist thoroughly examines possible motives related to his work and identifies all responsible parties.”
Calderon, leader of the investigative journalism unit of weekly Semana, was shot five times Wednesday while traveling from the capital Bogota to the central Colombian city of Ibague.
According to Fundacion para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP), a journalist rights watchdog, of the 140 officially registered cases of journalist assassinations in Colombia since 1977, 49 of these cases still have not been seen by prosecutors, 35 cases of the 91 cases that the Prosecutor General has been presented are inactive, and a total 59 cases have passed the statute of limitations. So why is there so much impunity in relation to attacks on journalists in Colombia?
“The answer is the spending inefficiency of the State,” said FLIP President Ignacio Gomez in an interview with Colombia Reports. “Let’s say that to pay for 90 security details for the  journalists who need permanent protection is much more expensive than paying 90 investigators to clarify the situation and neutralize the threats against the journalists. But for lack of coordination from the State, for lack of planning, and most of all for the inefficiency of the Prosecutor General, nothing is happening and they continue showing spending inefficiencies that at some point will cost lives.”
FLIP’s report on the state of Colombian journalism in 2012 stated that the majority of the attacks against journalists have come from neo-paramilitary and leftist rebel groups, however, 7.14% were attributed to public forces.
Gomez told Colombian press that he was very worried about the circumstances surrounding Calderon’s assassination attempt. “There are circumstances of manner, time and place that allow linking the criminal attack against Ricardo Calderon with his journalistic investigation in relation to the military prison, Tolemaida.” Calderon was reportedly conducting an investigation about alleged excessive privileges for some of the prisoners in this military prison.
Gomez told Colombia Reports, “At this time the majority of attacks come from criminal groups but it is important to note that within the attack statistics – as much in the assassinations as in the attacks on the freedom of press and expression – there are characters from the country’s political establishment from the three powers – executive, legislative and judicial – that are the most worrisome, because the State theoretically should be on the side and protecting and promoting the freedom of expression … And any element of the State that is attacking journalists is much more harmful than any citizen.”
According to the FLIP, more than 40 journalists have filed complaints over alleged press freedom violations so far this year. The majority of complains were in regards to death threats.
- Colombia: Ensure Effective Inquiry Into Attack On Journalist (HRW)
- Semana editor Calderon escapes shooting unharmed (CPJ)
- De las balas a los expedientes: Informe sobre el estado de la libertad de prensa en Colombia 2012 (FLIP)
- Interview with FLIP President Ignacio Gomez