Freedom of Expression

Press Release R106/10






Washington D.C., October 22, 2010. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of indigenous leader and journalist Rodolfo Maya Aricape, which occurred on October 14 on the López Adentro reservation, in the Department of Cauca, Colombia. The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls upon the Colombian State to investigate the crime, identify and punish the perpetrators, and provide redress to the victims.

According to the information received, Maya Aricape was in his house with his wife and two daughters when two armed men shot him. The 34-year-old leader was the secretary of the López Adentro Indigenous Council and a correspondent for Radio Pa´yumat, a community radio station of the Tejido de Comunicación [Communications Network] project.  

The Office of the Special Rapporteur was informed that Maya Aricape used to report daily on Radio Pa´yumat, covering events in his community. He was also in charge of documenting his people’s activities and those of the indigenous organizations on video. It has been reported that, in carrying out this work, Maya Aricape was noted for speaking out firmly against all of the armed groups operating in indigenous territories.

The work of the Tejido de Comunicación, to which Maya Aricape dedicated his efforts, won it the Bartolomé de las Casas Award, given in Madrid, Spain, last September.

 The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the State of the ninth principle of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, according to which "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."

A crime against an indigenous journalist has especially serious effects on his community, given the often vulnerable status of indigenous peoples in the context of armed conflict. Therefore, the State must adopt essential policies of prevention and protection; it must also investigate the crime committed, punish the perpetrators, and provide redress to the community for the resulting harm.