The U.S. reversed its decision to deny a visa to prominent Colombian journalist Hollman Morris, who will now be able to take up his place as a Neiman International Fellow at Harvard University.
Morris told Colombia Reports that “the U.S. consul in Colombia called me this morning to advise me that they had accepted my visa and that they will give it to me in the next few days.” The Colombian journalist’s comments contradict an AP report, which state that Morris and his family had already picked up their visas from the U.S. embassy on Tuesday.
Morris announced mid July that his application for a U.S. visa had been rejected under the “terrorist activities” section of the Patriot Act and that the move “indisputably puts my life in danger,” prompting international press to petition that the rejection be reconsidered.
The journalist said Tuesday that the reversal of the visa denial was thanks to “pressure” that international organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, The InterAmerican Press Association, the Open Society Institute, and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as Harvard University, had applied regarding the U.S.’s decision.
“It was very hard to turn the tables on the [Colombian] government’s smear campaign… I recognize and appreciate all of the support from the international community,” he said, adding that he didn’t know which U.S. body had reversed the decision.
Morris, maker of independent television program Contravia, is a critic of the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and has reported on ties between right-wing paramilitary death squads and political allies of the president.
According to Morris, Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS was involved in a smear campaign against him, which included efforts to have the journalist’s U.S. visa denied. He was among the journalists, judges and opposition politicians who was a victim of illegal DAS surveillance.
Uribe had accused Morris of being “an accomplice of terrorism.” This accusation led to criticism from the U.N., the OAS and international human rights groups.
Morris said he plans to leave Colombia “as soon as possible” and looks forward to being able to live a “normal” life with his family, which he is unable to do in his native country, due to security concerns. His nine-year-old daughter must travel in an armored car in Colombia.
The journalist said that he does not know when he will return to Colombia, but will continue to work on Contravia and other journalism projects from the U.S. His brother, Juan Pablo Morris will man the Contravia ship in Colombia.
Morris was one of 12 foreign journalists admitted to the Nieman program for the 2010-2011 academic year.