COLOMBIA: Delegation finds climate of intimidation in Barrancabermeja

In mid-April 2004, a delegation of press freedom organizations traveled to the Colombian city of Barrancabermeja, in the northeastern department of Santander, to verify press freedom conditions. The three-day mission was prompted by the growing number of attacks and acts of harassment against journalists in Barrancabermeja over the last two years.

The delegation included Sauro González Rodríguez, Americas program researcher for the Committee to Protect Journalists, and representatives from the Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières; the Bogotá-based Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP); and the Lima-based Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS). The group met with journalists, prosecutors, the Barrancabermeja ombudsman's office, police and army commanders, and civilian authorities.

The delegation found a climate of intimidation for journalists in Barrancabermeja—Colombia's oil capital—and surrounding rural areas. The region is home to right-wing paramilitary forces and left-wing guerrillas, with state institutions having only a weak presence. At the conclusion of the mission, the delegation issued a report with recommendations to the Colombian authorities and the parties to the armed conflict. The report was released on May 3, International Press Freedom Day.

A copy of the report, titled "Barrancabermeja, la voz que se resiste a callar" (Barrancabermeja, the voice that refuses to be silenced), is available in Spanish (in PDF).