Freedom of Expression

Press Release R34-10


Nº R34/10


Washington, D.C., March 22, 2010 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemns the murder of Clodomiro Castilla Ospino, a journalist with the magazine El Pulso del Tiempo and the radio broadcaster La Voz de Montería, on Friday, March 19, 2010. The murder took place in the city of Montería, in the department of Córdoba, Colombia. The Office of the Special Rapporteur recognizes the quick repudiation of this crime by the most senior Colombian officials, but expresses its deep concern at the situation of vulnerability the journalist faced despite having requested action from Colombia’s Program for the Protection of Journalists.

According to the information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, Castilla Ospino had been researching and reporting on the issue of paramilitaries and political corruption in Córdoba. The information received indicates that the State had authorized protective measures for Mr. Castilla Ospino, but that they were suspended at the request of the journalist in February of 2009. Facing increased danger, Castilla Ospino and several NGO’s submitted a new request for protection in November 2009. However, at the time of his death he was not under State protection. On March 19, two individuals on a motorcycle arrived at Castilla Ospino’s residence and shot him several times, killing him.

The murder of Castilla Ospino—who had provided testimony, based on his investigative reporting, in legal proceedings examining the links between Córdoba politicians and paramilitary leaders—took place in the context of important Supreme Court investigations into the infiltration of drug cartels and paramilitaries in national politics. In addition, the Office of the Attorney General is investigating alleged spying, harassment, and threats by members of the Administrative Security Department (DAS), a body under the authority of the Presidency of the Republic, against journalists, human rights defenders and judges investigating and denouncing this same phenomenon.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses concern over this situation and urges the Colombian State to move forward in its struggle against the situation of impunity that still surrounds these crimes. It also urges the State to support the work of judges and prosecutors and to push for effective and reinforced preventative mechanisms for protecting freedom of thought and expression. Likewise, the Office of the Special Rapporteur urgently recalls the State’s international obligation to investigate and quickly resolve the crime against Castilla Ospino by duly capturing, prosecuting, and adequately punishing those responsible, as well as its obligations to compensate the relatives of the victim and to take all legal and administrative measures necessary to protect threatened journalists and defend freedom of thought and expression in Colombia.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the State that Principle 9 of the IACHR’s Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression indicates that, "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."