Freedom of Expression

Press Release R 85/14


R 85/14




Washington D.C., August 14, 2014. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Luis Carlos Cervantes which took place on August 12, in the town of Tarazá, sub region of Bajo Cauca, department of Antioquia, Colombia. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern and urges the Colombian authorities to act promptly and timely to establish the motive of the crime and to activate all the legal instruments available to identify and punish the perpetrators behind this crime.


According to the information received, Cervantes was traveling as a passenger on a motorcycle when he was approached by strangers who shot him several times. Cervantes, journalist of the community radio station Morena FM and correspondent of channel Teleantioquia Noticias until 2013, had received death threats since 2010. At the time, it was noted that these threats could have started after the publication of reports on suspected cases of corruption in local government and that they could have come from criminal organizations. The threats persisted. The last threat occurred on July 22, 2014 when he was told that he had two hours to leave the town. It came after the journalist allegedly refused to broadcast information on the radio station about criminal organizations.


Because of his situation, the Risk Assessment and Measure Recommendation Committee [Comité de Evaluación de Riesgo y Recomendación de Medidas] (CERREM) approved protection measures, which were implemented by the National Protection Unit [Unidad Nacional de Protección] (UNP) from June 2012 until July 24, 2014.


On August 12, the UNP issued a statement in which it said the decision to withdraw the security scheme was taken on June 5, 2014 due to information held by the State that indicated that there was not a causal link between the threats and the journalist’s work. Among other reasons, the information indicated that Cervantes worked at the radio station as a music programmer and had not been working as a journalist for over a year.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential for the State to clarify the motive for this crime; identify, prosecute, and punish those responsible; and adopt fair measures of reparation for the victim's family. The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists that the State needs to create special investigative bodies and protocols, as well as strengthen the important existent mechanisms of protection to ensure the safety of those who are being threatened because of their work in journalism.


Principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "[t]he 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."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.