Colombia will celebrate the Day of the Journalist today with a record of 130 violations to the Press Fredom, according to Maria Teresa Ronderos, director of Semana.com. The number, however, is inferior of what it was in 2007 in 32 cases. The information is provided by “Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa” (Foundation for the Freedom of Press) that is going to publish a report on the matter this month.
Ronderos said that at least it is possible to say that no journalist was killed in 2008 by reason of his/her profession, as it was in former years. It is said that in the last 30 years, 130 journalists have been assassinated for their work. But the journalist of Semana, the Colombian magazine, underlined there were cases of threats and public officials were the main actors either giving degrading treatment or making obstruction of investigations. Rondero pointed that mayors, councilors and other members of the State, bit or insulted journalists when they published something that was of their dislike.
In the public manifestations of 2008, journalists had to cover their cameras and identities fearing to receive aggressions and insults. Although in many cases the Police protected journalists, in many other cases public officials were actors of mistreat to them, said Ronderos.
The director of the Colombian magazine pointed out that in occasions journalists were accused of guerrillas or paramilitary members by the different political actors if the information was not of their benefit.
The states of Santander, Valle del Cauca and Tolima were pointed out by Carlos Cortes, president of the Foundation of Freedom of Press, as the places with more problems against journalists. For example, in Valle del Cauca, the drug mafias treated journalists, in Santander it is done by a paramilitary group and in Tolima the presence of guerrillas.
In the case of the journalists Holman Morris and Jorge Enrique Botero, Ronderos said that they have to assume their responsibilities in a case so delicate like the release of Farc hostages. But it is also delicate the strong statements made by public officials, including the president of the Republic, against the journalists. The accusations are serious because they involved legal penalties. For example, Morris has received death threats in several occasions.
2009 will be a year of challenge for journalism in Colombia, because it is near a period of new elections, a time were illegal groups join corrupt political leaders to hold power in local or regional areas of the country. Such alliances mean a threat for freedom of press.
Maria Teresa Ronderos concluded that journalists should know very well that the protection of the life of persons is first and secondary the protection of information, trying to be as most independent as possible.