Freedom of Expression

Press Release 71/03


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS, Eduardo A. Bertoni, condemns the murder of Colombian journalist Luis Eduardo Alfonso Parada.  Likewise, he urges Colombian authorities to launch an investigation into the act and to ensure that its perpetrators are punished. Alfonso Parada had worked for radio and press Arauca during the last ten years, and was currently working as a correspondent for newspaper El Tiempo in Arauca, and as a reporter for radio station “Meridiano 70”. He reported on public order and municipal administration. 

According to the information received, in the early hours of March 18, 2003, unknown men in a motorcycle shot the journalist to death when he was leaving his house for work. 

The reasons for the assassination are still unknown. However, according to information received, the journalist was known for reporting cases of corruption and questioning the administration’s operation. For this reason, he had to leave temporarily the town because of life threats against him. Alfonso Parada was under the “Protection Program for Journalists and Social Communicators” by the Department of the Interior since June, 2002.

The Special Rapporteur recalls that the murder of journalists is the most brutal means of restricting freedom of expression. As stated in Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, “The murder [of] and or threats to social communicators violate the fundamental rights of individuals.” The American Convention on Human Rights, to which Colombia is a party, establishes that states have the duty to prevent, investigate, and sanction any violation of the human rights recognized in the Convention. In this regard, it should be noted that the murder, kidnapping, or intimidation of those who work for the media, or threats against them, pursue two specific goals.  On the one hand, they seek to annihilate journalists who are investigating abuses or irregularities in order to curtail their investigations and, on the other, they endeavor to intimidate investigators in general. 

The Special Rapporteur urges the Colombian government to investigate this murder immediately. At the same time, he urges the Colombian authorities to find ways to provide effective protection to all social communicators, so that they can perform their valuable work of informing the public. In this regard, he would recall the commitment made by the Heads of State and Government at the Third Summit of the Americas, whereby the governments ensured “that journalists and opinion leaders are free to investigate and publish without fear of reprisals . . . .”   

Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
March 18, 2003
Washington, D.C.