FEAR GRIPS MEDIA IN VALLE DEL CAUCA
Five IFEX members - the Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la libertad de prensa, FLIP), the Institute for Press and Society (Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, IPYS), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) - visited the province from 13 to 16 July where they met with journalists, community organisations and local authorities in Cali, Buenaventura, Tuluá, Cartago and Palmira.
Valle del Cauca is a base for two of Colombia's most powerful drug cartels, who have formed rival private armies - the Machos and the Rastrojos.
Two rebel groups - the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) - are also present and fight for control of the area against the right-wing paramilitary group United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC). In the town of Buenaventura alone, roughly 30 people are killed each month, according to local police.
In this environment, journalists work in fear. In the past two years, two have been murdered and at least four others threatened for reporting on corruption and drug trafficking.
Many journalists now avoid tackling the subjects altogether. "We just report what the police say," says one journalist. "If they say nothing, we say nothing." Drug traffickers are often described in the media as "businessmen" or as "proprietors."
Meanwhile, FARC, ELN and AUC routinely threaten journalists if media outlets refuse to publish their statements or censor articles that appear to favour their opponents.
Local authorities play down the severity of the situation, according to the IFEX members. While the police chief in Cali told the mission that "journalists have maximum protection," the IFEX members say protection is minimal and investigations into attacks rarely get very far.
In the latest attack, the president of the Valle del Cauca Journalists' Association, Guillermo Cabrera Medina, was found murdered in Cali on 4 September, reported FLIP and IPYS. He was stabbed to death. FLIP is investigating whether Cabrera was killed because of his work as a journalist. Initial reports indicate that he had not been threatened.
To read the full report of the international press freedom mission to Valle del Cauca, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/69191/
Visit these links:
- FLIP: http://www.flip.org.co
- IPYS: http://www.ipys.org
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/dyos4
- Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=americas&c=colomb
- CrisisWeb Report on Colombia: http://tinyurl.com/duuo5
- Reuters on Why 3 Million Colombians Have Fled Their Country: http://tinyurl.com/7a34e