Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Colombia: Government Urged to Take Action on Threats Against Journalists

According to The Latin American Tribune, national omdbudsman Jorge Otalora requested Monday (September 29) that Colombian authorities take “urgent” measures to protect reporters when it became known that eight of them had been declared “military targets” by a criminal gang.

The threat was announced in a leaflet signed by Los Urabeños against eight reporters working in the southwestern city of Cali and the nearby Pacific port de Buenaventura, as correspondents of Caracol Radio, Q’Hubo Radio, El Tiempo and Telepacifico.

The eight are added to another two journalists threatened days before by the criminal gang Los Rastrojos, a warning that was reported internationally by Reporters Without Borders from the organization’s headquarters in Paris.

Otalora joined that group Monday in requesting an investigation into the dire warnings and also asked for “the measures of protection needed to safeguard the safety and lives of the reporters,” his office said in a statement.

COMMENT: Continued complaints regarding the failure of the Santos government to respond promptly and professionally to death threats against journalists are seemingly falling upon deaf ears. 

As one who has had 20 years experience in protecting threatened persons, it seems clear that the moment that a journalist has a documented threat made, they should be afforded 24/7 protection while the threat is being evaluated.

The ombudsman noted that between January-August 2014 the Santos government was cognizant of 93 cases of journalists being threatened, 51 more than in all of 2013.

Otalora criticized the protection measures provided for many of those threatened, consisting of “mobile phone services and police patrols” which do nothing to guarantee their protection, and said that the period of “30 working days to evaluate the risk level” is much too long.

The threats against journalists came as total death threats reached a high of 150 since early September, and included human-rights activists and political leaders named in a number of leaflets signed by the Aguilas Negras and the Los Rastrojos paramilitary groups.

Colombia is listed 126th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ global index of press freedom.

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