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Newspaper in Barranquilla forbidden to report on case of alleged municipal corruption and paramilitary ties

(FLIP/IFEX) - In order to protect the possible violation of a company's right to a good reputation, a judge in the city of Barranquilla, Atlántico department, ordered the regional newspaper "El Heraldo" to suspend publication of news that might threaten or violate the company's fundamental rights.

On 21 January 2007, "El Heraldo" and the civil society organization Protransparencia published a report about the alleged links of the company Métodos y Sistemas to paramilitary groups in the region, and the apparent misuse of public funds to finance the electoral campaign of the city's mayor, Guillermo Hoenigsberg Bornacelly. The report was published after other information on the matter had already been disseminated by various other media outlets across the country.

Métodos y Sistemas, hired by the municipal government to collect taxes in Barranquilla, asked for a court injunction against "El Heraldo" and Protransparencia, claiming that the information published violated its right to a good reputation. As a precautionary measure until the case is resolved, Judge Hernando Estrada Peña of the Barranquilla Second Criminal Circuit Court (Juez Segundo Penal del Circuito de Barranquilla) forbade the newspaper to publish any more information on the topic.

FLIP is opposed to Judge Estrada's ruling, considering it a violation of press freedom that ignores Colombia's Constitution and international treaties. Article 20 of the Constitution strictly forbids censorship, including measures for the prior monitoring and control of information to be disseminated, be they legal or simply functional. FLIP urges the court to revoke this decision and guarantee "El Heraldo" due process while the company's legal action is before the courts. Decisions such as this one inhibit investigative journalists and undermine public debate.

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