Coverage: This is the panorama of journalists threatened in Colombia

240 journalists have been threatened so far in 2018, according to the Foundation for Press Freedom. LatinAmerican Post spoke with one of them

Coverage: This is the panorama of journalists threatened in Colombia

The Foundation for Press Freedom headed by the coordinator of Defense and Attention to Journalists at FLIP, Luisa Fernanda Isaza, informed El Heraldo newspaper that "in the first 10 months of 2018, 240 journalists have been threatened." This was made known during the celebration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists decreed by Unesco. This figure is higher than in 2016 when there were 108 cases documented by the organization.

Leer en español: Reportaje: Este es el panorama de los periodistas amenazados en Colombia

On the support of justice for journalists, the Colombian media responds that "the investigation and prosecution of threats in Colombia are not investigated and they are not judged, only if there is general commotion". In addition, Isaza explained that "given that it always remain in impunity, it becomes an incentive for new aggressors, which has generated fear and self-censorship among the journalists themselves, which is very serious."

And the threats continue. On September 10, Martha Delgado, journalist member of the community media El Macarenazoo; Guillermo Castro, director of the same media; Manuel Arango, director of Clarín of Colombia; and Omar Vera, journalist and editor of the newspaper El Turbión, were threatened with death for their journalistic work. The threat came in a pamphlet signed by the paramilitary group Black Eagles' Capital Bloc.

LatinAmerican Post spoke with one of the journalists and learned about how much support he has received from the Colombian justice in his case, as well as what is behind the threat. The journalist is Omar Vera, director of El Turbión, a Colombian media that has been doing journalistic research since 2004. Vera said that he relates the threat to "the investigations developed for his media on paramilitarism" and talks about two investigations.

The first is titled "Sicarius and spies 'protect' threatened people". It reports the infiltration of former members of paramilitary groups or people linked to criminal activities in the National Protection Unit (UNP), an entity charged with protecting the lives of journalists, social leaders, and other threatened persons.

The second investigation is "Ten years and we have no truth, justice or reparation", published in August 2018. In this report is made the connection between civil recruiters who made a business with members of the Colombian National Army to bring young people and then present them as guerrilla fighters discharged by the Army. "All with the objective of receiving a prize of one million pesos per dead boy," said Vera.

The intention behind the threat

"We believe that the main purpose of this threat is to censor us and prevent us from registering the things that are linked to social and environmental conflicts, struggles of ethnic, indigenous, afro-descendant, peasant communities, women's organizations that are developing a defense of their rights. The threats seek that we do not continue talking about these issues," Vera said about the issues that are bothering their victimizers and that seek to silence them.

You can also read: Coverage: This is how the Colombian State fails when protecting social leaders

"There is a profile of journalists who are being attacked and they are those who do research on corruption, human rights violations, at a time when, for example, the JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace) is being questioned because they are looking for a soft dealing with state agents of the government," added Vera about what kind of journalists are being threatened, within the intention of the perpetrators.

What justice support has he had in his case?

Vera said that as the threats were not only against him but also against a group of independent media journalists, he speaks for all those who came together to demand justice. He said that in "the institutions charged with ensuring that the judicial investigation advances, that is, the Office of the Prosecutor and the entities in charge of our protection, the response has been very minimal. We had a contact with the UNP and we are doing a security study of the case that we are already accepting, we are waiting for. But everything is very slow. Our case goes hand in hand with the Prosecutor's Office." 

But that has not been the only death threat for his journalistic work. In 2014 he had already received one death threat in which he named two people from El Turbión apart from him. Since then, he denounces that so far they have not been called to expand the complaint. "They're not even telling us to come and talk about what happened, it's worrying," he explained. The fact that Vera told demonstrates the vulnerability and lack of support of the Colombian justice system that exists not only towards him, but also to his group of journalists in El Turbión.

"The Prosecutor's Office, in our case, has to make a decision: if it is going to allow the cases that affect journalists to continue to accumulate as it has always happened, without the investigation going beyond the preliminary phase, without knowing where the threats come from, or if it will start doing research," said Vera.

The situation of threatened journalists is compounded by a major obstacle to finding responsible people. According to a document known exclusively by the newspaper El Espectador, "the Integrated Intelligence Information Center against Organized Crime (CI3-CO) of the National Police ruled that there is no armed group called Central Command of the Black Eagles of Colombia" .

Not being recognized by the State, the problem is greater for Vera and her fellow journalists. This is because for the Colombian justice there would be no victimizer, leaving his case in limbo and unpunished, while his life and that of other journalists is in danger. However, Vera has faith and hopes that justice will support him at least by providing protection measures for him and the others threatened. For now, his life is in danger.

LatinAmerican Post | Edwin Guerrero Nova

Translated from "Reportaje: Este es el panorama de los periodistas amenazados en Colombia"

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