Freedom of Expression

Press Release R171/17

Office of the Special Rapporteur calls to investigate and determine the circumstances of the murder of community journalist Efigenia Vásquez


October 30th, 2017


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over the murder of radio journalist Efigenia Vásquez Astudillo in the Cauca region, Colombia, and urges the State to conduct the investigation of these facts with due diligence and punish those responsible.


According to available information, the journalist of the indigenous radio station Renacer Kokonuko died on October 8, after receiving bullet wounds during an eviction police procedure of the Kokonuko People community members, who were protesting in Puracé, department of Cauca. The authorities have reportedly initiated an investigation into these events.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that in the context of demonstrations and situations of social unrest, the work of journalists and media workers is essential to keeping the public informed of the events and, therefore, the State must afford them the highest degree of protection in order for them to perform their duties, which also includes the duty to create the necessary conditions to mitigate the risks of practicing their profession in such situations. This Office has reiterated that properly educating State security forces on the role of the press in a democratic society is an important step in preventing violence against journalists and media workers in contexts of demonstrations.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the Colombian State to act with due diligence and swiftness in clarifying the death of the journalist Vásquez Astudillo, and in punishing those responsible for this crime. In particular, this Office reminds that in any case that the existence of a wounded journalist is verified in the context of social protests, the investigation must determine the nature and origin of the injuries and their relationship with the work of the journalist. When an abusive use of police force is reported, the officials in charge of the investigation must be independent, both hierarchically and institutionally, of the persons and agencies involved in the facts submitted to the investigation.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the 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.