Attacks on the Press
Journalists reporting on sensitive issues like the country’s decades-long armed conflict, crime, and corruption faced renewed violence and intimidation. A journalist at Colombia’s leading newsmagazine narrowly survived an assassination attempt, while reporters throughout the country were repeatedly threatened, and in some cases forced to flee their homes and the country. One journalist and one media support worker were murdered in direct retaliation for their work. The violence caused reporters outside the major urban centers to self-censor for fear of their lives. Meanwhile, journalists covering the months-long anti-government demonstrations by peasant farmers in northern Catatumbo were violently targeted by all sides. Justice continued to progress haltingly in the five-year investigation into an illegal government espionage program that targeted critical journalists, among others, as the Supreme Court dropped charges against the former head of the National Intelligence Agency and another court released an official of the agency who had been previously convicted, according to news reports. Seven former secret police detectives were sentenced to preventive detention on charges of “psychologically torturing” and anonymously threatening journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, one of the espionage victims, for her coverage of the 1999 murder of a journalist. In a positive development, a criminal defamation conviction against editor Luis Agustín González was overturned by the Supreme Court. As President Juan Manuel Santos’ government continued peace negotiations with the leftist guerrilla organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a government-created commission reported that Colombia’s more than 50-year conflict has killed at least 220,000 people, the vast majority of them noncombatants.