A new report by Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) stands as a stark reminder of just how dangerous the journalistic profession is in this country, bringing a solemnity to Colombia’s Day of the Journalist on Saturday.
According to newspaper El Espectador, FLIP will publish its annual report on the state of press freedom in Colombia on Saturday, which coincides with Colombia’s Day of the Journalist.
While attacks on journalists have fallen from 158 in 2011 to 141 in 2012, the report supposedly will draw attention to a worrisome new trend that has emerged in the tactics of journalistic oppression — legal prosecution as a method of censorship.
The report allegedly highlights a ruling against a journalist by Cundinamarca (central Colombia) department’s high court as an example. The journalist in question was convicted of libel for writing an opinion piece which heavily criticized a former governor of the department who had decided to reenter politics.
Another prime example was the case of Hector Mario Rodriguez, who was taken to court by the shareholders of oil company Alange Energy, now named Petro Magdalena, for allegedly inciting economic panic via an editorial he wrote. Rodriguez’s editorial was the alleged reason the company’s share price dropped.
More conventional forms of oppression were still very evident in 2012. There were 31 reported cases of attacks on journalists by members of Colombia’s security forces, with the death of journalist Guillermo Quiroz while in police custody being the most prominent. Police claimed Quiroz fell out of the back of a truck, however his family claimed that Quiroz told them he was beaten by police then intentionally thrown out of the vehicle.
Threats and intimidation have continued to stoke journalists’ fears of reprisals, which in turn has led to self-censorship by many members of the press.
The report should serve as a stark reminder that there is still much work to be done to ensure that Colombia’s day of the journalist becomes cause for celebration, rather than reflection.