Colombia’s Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP) and Reporters Without Borders accused Colombia’s migration authority of “collective censorship” on foreign journalists by failing to expedite migrant visas.
According to an investigation by Colombia Reports and The Bogota Post, at least 12 foreign journalists have been unable to obtain or renew the migrant visas that allow them to work in Colombia and could be forced to leave the country.
Three other journalists said they had given up and already left the country.
The accusations appears to be a consequence of the country’s “simplified” migration laws that took effect in December last year.
But what was touted as a visa reform to “simplify” migratory regulations, effectively complicated procedures for freelance journalists, including the editor-in-chief of this website.
Since December, a freelance journalist must have, among other credentials, a bachelor’s degree in journalism. One journalist told Colombia Reports her masters degree in journalism was rejected.
“The change in the demanded requirements constitutes a violation of the fundamental right to equality, since it places independent journalists in different conditions” than Colombian journalists, FLIP said in a press release.
FLIP decried the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Colombia Migration authority, claiming the “illegitimate restrictions” violated the country’s constitution.
The International Press Association of Colombia also declared its “concern about the restrictions that foreign journalists are suffering for the free exercise of their profession.”
The regulations pose a major problem for freelancers, many of whom have worked in journalism for years, but studied their “beat” topics and other areas in university.
The reporters affected have previously worked for the New York Times, The Guardian, TIME, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, VICE, Reuters, The Telegraph, The Bogota Post, El Tiempo, Finance Colombia, Bloomberg, Dow Jones Activa, BBC Monitoring, ESPN, New York Daily News, L’Express, Marie Claire, National Geographic, Gotenborg Posten, Volkskrant, De Morgen, Canal+, France 24, RTVB, Nature TV, Vogue, Hohia de Sao Paulo, MSN, Getty Images and Colombia Reports.
Hemos identificado un cambio en las políticas de expedición de visas a periodistas freelance internacionales interesados en cubrir Colombia.
— Pedro Vaca V. (@PVacaV) September 3, 2018
Previously, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Constitutional Court of Colombia have recognized journalistic freedom as a right not restricted by professional certification or a link to a professional association.
In April, the United Nation’s human rights chief in Colombia, Alberto Brunori, struggled similarly after he was only given a temporary visa, effectively impeding him from presenting a report critical of the Colombia peace process.
“Requiring a professional card to exercise the right to inform or to impose special requirements or exaggerated charges are indirect restrictions that restrict freedom of expression,” Emmanuel Colombie, director of the Americas chapter of Reporters Without Borders, told Colombia Reports.
FLIP urged the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Migration Colombia to take urgent measures against what they called “acts of collective censorship against foreign journalists in Colombia.”
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that they were reviewing the regulations and would plan a meeting with FLIP to discuss the visas.
“The Foreign Ministry reiterates that Colombia is a country that defends, supports and respects press freedom,” the Ministry said.