FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION
In their meeting with the members of the IACHR's Special
Commission, members of the International Federation of Journalists
(FIP), the National Association of Colombian Journalists, the Colombian
Newspaper Reporters Club and representatives of other news agencies
described the scenario in which Colombian journalists have been
operating and their problems as follows:
the Constitution adopted in 1991 is a sweeping statement of
rights that represent the underpinnings and bulwark of democracy and are
designed to overcome the existing political and social crisis.
This legal framework, which was the product of the deliberations
of the Constitutional Assembly, is the means the Colombian people have
determined they will use to contend with the troubling human rights
violations. As the Attorney
General Carlos Gustavo Arrieta Padilla remarked, those violations have
brought Colombia to the brink of barbarism and fly in the face of goals
and concerns that for three centuries have been morally and politically
informed by a belief in man and his values.
LEGAL PROVISIONS IN EFFECT IN RESPECT OF FREEDOM OF
THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION
B. HOW HAS
THIS RIGHT BEEN VIOLATED
Amid these terrible conflicts, the International Federation of
Journalists reported that the Colombian journalist was the target of
persistent attack, frequently ending in death.
The function of a journalist is to point to and report the most
serious problems in the country. Although
essential at times like these, that function has been affected by
the frequent attacks from drug traffickers, guerrillas, military and
paramilitary groups that want to control the media.
In general, they all resort to the most extreme practice, i.e.,
That being the case, the Commission is disturbed by the Colombian
Government's timid and somewhat irresponsible conduct; it shies away
from solutions to the problems besieging journalists.
Journalists are, in fact, immersed in a conflict.
While their function is protected by the right to inform, human
rights abusers make them the targets of repeated and disproportionate
Petitioners say that the foregoing is compounded by the fact that
the Colombian State has repeatedly and systematically restricted freedom
of the press, expression and thought, thereby making it difficult for
the media and journalists to exercise fully
their right to report the facts.
On November 8, 1992, the Government declared a state of internal
disturbance throughout the national territory, and on November 9 issued
Decree 1812 which, inter alia, prohibited total or partial
broadcast, either by radio or television, of communiques either
attributed to or actually coming from guerrilla groups and other
criminal organizations associated with drug trafficking and terrorism.
It also made it illegal to either identify or interview witnesses
to violent episodes and individuals associated with the guerrilla
movement, terrorism or drug trafficking. It also prohibited live broadcasts, direct from the scene of
the events, of acts of violence.
The Commission is disturbed by these regulations because they
effectively curtail the right to inform and to be informed.
Journalists are not being allowed to exercise their profession
freely. The right that
every society has to be informed of the facts is being restricted.
These same bans had been decreed in 1970 through Decree No. 1134;
in 1977 through Decree No. 2066, and in 1988 through Decree No. 2204;
this shows that the Colombian State has repeatedly pursued a policy of
restricting freedom of the press and of expression.
Now the situation has reached crisis proportions.
The International Federation of Journalists believed it was vital
that the Commission see the reports obtained from the Human Rights
Coordination Office of the Regional Office for Latin America so that the
Commission might include the specific issue of the human rights of
journalists on its agenda during its visit to Colombia.
RELATIVE TO THIS RIGHT
The Commission has received information on the following
assassinations of journalists in Colombia, notwithstanding the other
violations of one's physical integrity that have been committed:
1. January 25, 1991:
Journalist DIANA TURBAY QUINTERO was killed as she was
being rescued by the Police at the "La Bola" farm in the
jurisdiction of Copacabana near Medellín, where she was being held
hostage. There was a clash
between police and drug traffickers and in the exchange of fire the
journalist, who was editor of the Magazine "Hoy por Hoy" was
shot and mortally wounded. On
January 21, 1992, the Office of the Attorney General decided to dismiss
two officers with the National Police's elite force, Col. Lino Pinzón
Naranjo and Captain Elmer Ezequiel Torres Vela, and to discipline
another two members of the Police Force, Major Hugo Eliodoro Aguilar
Naranjo and Lt. Iván Díaz Alvarez, for irregular conduct in the
rescue. The Attorney
General, Dr. Carlos Gustavo Arrieta Padilla, contends that the military
did know that the journalist and several other colleagues were present
at the site when the police mounted its assault.
Journalist Richard Becerra, a witness to the shooting that left
Diana Turbay dead, told the media that when he and Diana--who had
already been mortally wounded--boarded the Police helicopter, a man who
identified himself as José Humberto Vásquez Muñoz told him to take a
good look at him, that he didn't have anything to do with the tragedy
that had taken place there. According
to Becerra, the man said that he was one of the kidnappers but had
decided to inform on them. On
January 26, Vásquez Muñoz was mysteriously found dead in Girardota,
Antioquia, after he had been released.
The Director of the National Police, General Miguel Antonio Gómez
Padilla, denied that Vásquez Muñoz even existed and his name does not
appear in the police reports. He
also said that the Attorney General's office was telling "half
truths." 2. February
13, 1991: EZEQUIEL
ARIAS LOPEZ, killed in Bogota, according to records of the
Administrative Security Department (DAS). 3. March
11, 1991: LUIS
FRANCISCO LORA DE PAULA, killed in Bogota according to the records
of the Administrative Security Department (DAS).
18, 1991: CAMPO
ELIAS GARCIA PINZON, killed in Socha, Boyacá, according to records
of the Administrative Security Department (DAS).
23, 1991: Journalist ANTONIO
MARIA ORTIZ GOMEZ with the newspaper "La Opinión de Cúcuta",
killed by unidentified gunmen in that city.
14, 1991: journalists JULIO
DANIEL CHAPARRO (29) and JORGE TORRES NAVAS, editor and
reporter with the El Espectador, respectively, were killed by four men
using automatic weapons, on La Reina Street, Segovia, Antioquia, as they
were finishing up a series of reports on the sources of violence in
Colombia (El Espectador, December 5, 1991).
They had been with El Espectador for two years.
The police said that the killings were the work of drug
traffickers in the Medellín cartel.
On May 10, DIJIN reported that from its investigations it had
determined that the killings were the work of the FARC.
On December 5, El Espectador reported (page 12-A) that troops of
the XIV Army Brigade captured Ramiro Alfonso Madrid Lezcano (23) and
Joaquín Julián Lezcano Ortiz (40), for whom arrest warrants had been
issued by the Medellín Public Order Court.
The newspaper stated that the two individuals arrested were
associated with the "José Antonio Galán" Popular Militia, an
urban faction of the National Liberation Army, ELN.
The Lezcano cousins, who were minors, denied any involvement in
the crime and thus far there has been no official decision on their
arrest. In April 1992, the
Office of the Attorney General of the Nation concluded that the members
of the FARC were the authors of the CHAPARRO and TORRES
killings. The report of the
Special Investigations Office discarded "...any involvement by
members of the Army, National Police or some other State Security agency
in this crime." It
maintained that the two journalists were killed accidentally when they
were mistaken for paramilitaries. The
double assassination was attributed to the IV and XXVII Fronts of the
FARC and to the "José Antonio Galán" Popular Bolivarian
Militia of the ELN. 7.
April 24, 1991: JORGE TORRES NAVAS:
See point 6 above. 8.
May 20, 1991: JOSE LIBARDO MENDEZ, journalist and liberal leader, and CARLOS
JULIO RODRIGUEZ, a broadcaster with the "Voz de la Selva",
an affiliate of the Caracol Chain, were killed by hired gunmen on a
motorcycle in Florencia (Caquetá).
JUDITH ARISTIZABAL, MENDEZ' wife and a broadcaster
with the Voz de la Selva, was wounded in the attack.
9. May 20, 1991: CARLOS JULIO RODRIGUEZ:
See No. 8. 10.
August 3, 1991: Journalist
HERNAN BLANCO was killed by an unknown assailant in the Villa
Javier neighborhood of southeastern Bogota.
The motive for the crime is unknown.
11. August 16,
HERNANDEZ was killed in Arauca (Caldas) by persons unknown.
12. August 25,
1991: JUAN SUAREZ
FLORES, a contributing editor and assistant with the newspaper El
Tiempo in Berlin (Germany) was killed by a guard in a rural sector of
Mosquera, Cundinamarca. The
facts in this case are confusing. 13.
September 13, 1991: ARCENIO
HOYOS LOZANO, director of "La Voz de Ariari" in Granada,
was killed by a hired gunman near the broadcast house in Villavicencio.
He was shot seven times. 14.
September 13, 1991: JULIO
SERRATO died on September 13 in a clinic as a result of bullet
wounds received on Wednesday night, September 11, as he was going home
in the city of Manizales. Police
reported that two unidentified individuals were suspected of killing
this 33 year old journalist, who was also an actor and communications
professor at the University of Manizales.
15. October 4,
1991: JAVIER RAMOS ACEVEDO, a bookkeeper and sports
broadcaster, was shot in Maracaibo, Tuluá (Valle).
16. October 8,
1991: RODRIGO AHUMADA BADO, journalist and political leader,
died from injuries sustained when he was attacked by four men in the
neighborhood of El Pando, Santa Marta, on September 26.
17. October 20,
1991: RAFAEL ANTONIO SOLANO
BROCHERO (51), a Santa Marta journalist, was shot four times by two
unknown gunmen who attacked him in front of his house in Las Tablitas,
Santa Marta. He was a
correspondent for El Tiempo and owned a press and advertising agency in
Fundación. The assassins escaped and the motive for the crime is
November 14, 1991: ANTONIO RIOS, who was abducted on the second weekend in
November (between 8 and 10) was found dead on November 14 in the
department of Antioquia. Neither
the motive nor the authorship of the crime is known.
19. December 28,
1991: NESTOR HENRY ROJAS, a 14-year correspondent with El
Tiempo in the department of Arauca, was killed by a hired gunman as he
was entering his home on Avenida Olaya Herrera, at 6:40 p.m., in the
presence of his wife and children.
The murderer shot him three times.
His family went to his aid, but he died in the San Vicente
Hospital. The mother of
Rojas Monje claims that the crime was the work of MARCOS AYALA, a
political leader and candidate for the Governor's office, about whom El
Tiempo had published a report in October to the effect that he made
secret agreements with the guerrillas.
The Second Army Brigade, garrisoned in Bucaramanga, claimed that
the murder was the work of a commando of the Colombian Revolutionary
Armed Forces, FARC. "Rojas'
colleagues in Arauca said that he was being pressured and threatened
because of his intransigent anti-guerrilla posture."
The police arrested a suspect, CESAR BASILIO TORRES. On April 13, "El Tiempo" reported that the Office
of the Attorney General of the Nation would publish a report implicating
some members of the military and certain political leaders, as well as
two soldiers who had confessed to being directly involved in the crime.
20. January 21,
1992: CARLOS ALBERTO LLANOS,
murdered at his home in Cali by two men who attacked him with knives,
according to reports released by the Police. He was an attorney, a political activist and director of the
Noticiero Popular del Circuito Toledar of Colombia. Police sources say that the crime was a case of personal
revenge, because LLANOS had entered his apartment in the company of the
two men who, they surmise, were Llanos' friends; the police hypothesize
that these two men killed him and then fled in the victim's car.
21. February 1, 1992: JORGE
ALBERTO BERMUDEZ ZAMBRANO was killed in Bogota at the intersection
of Highway 12 and 5th street when five individuals, intent on robbing
him, stabbed him as he was walking with a friend.
Fortunately, the friend ran and was able to save himself.
He was a newspaper reporter, a former photographer for the Office
of the President of the Republic and was at the time working in Los
Angeles, in the United States. He was 42 years old and was vacationing in his native
February 14, 1992: FREDDY MARIO ERAZO was 29 years old and a sports
commentator for the program "El Combo Deportivo de Radio
Super". He was found
dead by members of the National Police, having been shot forty times in
the Envigado Amphitheater near Medellín.
Curiously, he had not slept at home the night before and the
theory was that he was first abducted and then murdered.
It is also believed that the crime was the work of organized
crime. The authorities are
launching an investigation. He
was married and had a nine-year old daughter.
23. March 27,
1992: JOSE MIGUEL AMAYA ESPINOSA, 38, was murdered by two men
who shot him, apparently during an assault at a soda fountain in
downtown Cartago. 24.
May 6, 1992: ISMAEL JAIMES, 35, director of the newspaper "La
Opinión", was murdered at 7:30 a.m. in Barrancabermeja, Magdalena
Medio. Witnesses say that
hired gunmen shot him just as he was dropping off his two children at
school. This incident
occurred fifteen minutes before the members of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States
arrived in Barrancabermeja. The
authors of this murder are believed to be paramilitary.
Through the newspaper "La Opinión", JAIMES had been
critical of the conduct of paramilitary, military, guerrilla and
drug-trafficking groups. His
murder was interpreted as part of a campaign of terror launched against
journalists in Magdalena Medio by all of the sectors involved in the
Even though the Commission has the competence to take cognizance
of any type of complaint against a State party to the Convention,
regardless of the degree of responsibility that State might have in
situations as complex as the one presented in this complaint, from the
practical standpoint it would be impossible--whether as individual cases
or a collective case, as requested--to process the facts that the
complaint reports. Each
case involves a violation of the right to life where members of this
Colombian trade union died for practicing their journalistic profession.
Cases like this one cannot be processed in accordance with the
procedures established in articles 48 to 51 of the American Convention
and point up the fact that the events occurring in Colombia exceed
anything that the mechanisms provided for in the American Convention, or
the Commission's Statute and Regulations were meant to handle.
The Commission is including this petition in this Special Report
on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia.
It was delivered personally and collectively by the widows,
children and other relatives of the victims and by the representatives
of the journalists associations mentioned earlier.
The Commission finds these cases deeply disturbing. While it knows the Government is aware of these cases, it
must impress upon the Colombian authorities how important it is that
these cases be investigated and the guilty parties punished.
It would ask the Government to consider how the relatives of the
murdered journalists might be compensated, since they, too, are innocent
victims of the endlessly spiralling violence in Colombia.
The Colombian people are so defenseless that journalists are at
the mercy of those who resort to the cowardly practice of assassination
to intimidate them, repress them and coerce them.
The figures of the Administrative Security Department (DAS) show
that 82 journalists were killed between 1977 and May 1991. Another 14 journalists were killed between May 1991 and April
1992, bringing the total number of journalists killed to 96.
This figure testifies to the constant aggression to which
Colombian journalists are subjected.
According to the International Federation of Journalists, there
have been more journalists killed in Colombia in the last 15 years than
in any other Latin American country.
DAS statistics show that during the "war" on
journalists declared by drug trafficking groups, a total of 44
journalists were killed. Research
by the Centro de Investigación Popular, CINEP, shows that among
professional groups, journalists account for the third largest number of
victims of political and presumably political violence, with 7 murders,
9 kidnappings, 6 wounded and 1 threat in 1991.
According to Alfredo Vázquez Carrizosa, former Foreign Minister
and Chairman of the Permanent Human Rights Defense Committee, this
situation "means that journalists are utterly unprotected; there is
no one to protect them." The
Office of the Special Adviser for Human Rights of the President of the
Republic lists journalists, along with peasants and union leaders, as
one of the most vulnerable sectors.