Javier Darío Restrepo worked in El Colombiano for 17 years as a columnist of opinion. This is the prestigious daily newspaper of Medellín that was founded in 1912. He was suspended to continue under the argument that the administration was reorganizing the opinion section.
The action became a news in Colombia and opened the debate on the freedom of press. Of course, we have to understand the elements of how many see a threaten in the freedom of press to the Restrepo’s dismissal. At the same time, it shows us how much delicate is to think different in Colombia, an element that threaten the maturity of our democracy in a serious way.
Restrepo declared that the action of the administration is explained only in his political points of view that differ from the position of the newspaper.
In an interview to the Colombian Federation for the Freedom of Press (FLIP), Restrepo said that in the last months he has been critic to the administration of president Álvaro Uribe. For Restrepo, that is also a professor in journalism and ethics in different Colombian universities and has worked also in television and other newspapers like El Tiempo, other reelection of Uribe would mean a concentration of power in the figure of the president.
Restrepo exposed his arguments in one of his last columns in El Colombiano under the title “Libertad de discrepar” (Freedom of Disagree):
”Hizo falta proclamar que discrepar de un gobierno no convierte a una persona en terrorista, ni en cómplice de las FARC, ni en enemigo del presidente o de sus fervientes seguidores”
“It lacked to proclaim that being in disagreement with a government does not make a person a terrorist, an accomplice of the FARC or an enemy of the president and his most devote followers.”
By his part, the chief of the section of opinion of El Colombiano, Felipe Jaramillo, said to RCN that he was stopped to continue just because it is a process of reorganization that the newspapers is doing during the last three years and that it was not because of the opinions of Restrepo on the administration of president Uribe:
”Hace dos años cambiamos 27 columnistas; el año pasado, 21, y éste, doce”.
“Two years ago we changed 12 columnists; last year they were 21 and this one it is 12”
The Federation for the Freedom of Press of Colombia said that it recognizes and defends the right of the press companies to select and hire employees, journalists and helpers, but at the same time it expresses concern if the move was done under political reasons:
“(…) estas decisiones puedan tener como propósito silenciar perspectivas críticas, diferentes o en contravía de la opinión mayoritaria. En la coyuntura actual de polarización y radicalismos, la democracia colombiana requiere más – y no menos – voces reflexivas como la del maestro Javier Darío Restrepo.”
“This decisions could have as purpose to silence critic perspectives or different opinions to the majority. In this situation of polarization and radicalism, the Colombian democracy needs more – and not less – reflective voices like that of professor Javier Darío Restrepo”
Restrepo is without doubt a prominent scholar and journalist not only in Colombia but in Latin America. He is the author of books on journalism and ethics, professor at the Foundation for the New Ibero-American Journalism, a member of Means for the Peace and founder of the board of trust of the Federation for the Freedom of Press in Colombia.