Freedom of Expression

Press release R268/22

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemns the murder of journalist Wilder Alfredo Córdoba and urges the State of Colombia to redouble its efforts to prevent violence against the press

December 2, 2022

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Wilder Alfredo Córdoba in La Unión, department of Nariño; and urges the Colombian authorities to investigate the facts promptly and in a complete, effective and impartial manner, taking into consideration the journalistic work as a possible motive for the crime.

According to the information available, on November 28, journalist and social leader Wilder Alfredo Córdoba, 35 years old, was the victim of an armed attack by unknown subjects, who shot him at least three times while he was riding his motorcycle in a rural area of the town of La Unión. According to the information received, Wilder Alfredo Córdoba was recognized locally for his coverage of insecurity and issues related to the municipal administration through the La Unión TV channel, which he directed, and his personal Facebook profile. The Colombian Attorney General's Office reported that they had learned of the death of the journalist and social leader, and that the "Special Investigation Unit has assigned a team of prosecutors and investigators to carry out urgent actions and clarify the facts". Likewise, the Secretary of Government of the Governor's Office of the Department of Nariño condemned the facts and urged the authorities to "expedite the investigative tasks to find, in a timely manner, the perpetrators of this event". On the other hand, the Municipal Mayor's Office of La Unión offered a financial reward in exchange for information that could lead to the identification of the persons responsible for the murder.

The case of Wilder Alfredo Córdoba is the fourth murder reported by this Office so far in 2022. Previously, the Special Rapporteurship pronounced itself on the crime of journalists Leiner Enrique Montero, Dilia Contreras and Rafael Emiro Moreno Garavito. This Office notes that all the murders reported this year are located in territories far from the capital, where the impact that these events have on freedom of expression and press freedom is greater because they significantly affect the livelihood of local and community journalism, and therefore the possibilities of society to receive information and stay informed on matters of public interest.

The State has indicated that it is committed to respecting freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to public information. In this regard, it reported that it is strengthening the mechanisms for the prevention and protection of journalists, in coordination with civil society organizations. In this regard, it indicated that the Ministry of the Interior is working on an emergency plan consisting of six axes, with short and medium term lines of action. Additionally, the State reported that between January and October 2022, the National Protection Unit (UNP) has protected 164 journalists.

The Rapporteurship recalls that, according to international human rights standards, States have the duty to effectively investigate crimes against journalists, prosecute and punish the perpetrators. In this regard, the Inter-American Court has highlighted the importance of the obligation of due diligence of the authorities in criminal investigations of murders of journalists, since an investigation that does not consider aspects related to the context in which they occurred, the professional activity of the reporter and patterns of violence against journalists will have less chance of achieving results. On this point, moreover, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has maintained that the practice of not exhausting the line of investigation related to the journalistic profession not only hinders the pursuit of justice, but is also a factor in the impunity of crimes against the press.

In view of the foregoing considerations, this Office reiterates its call to the Colombian State to redouble its efforts to prevent violence against journalists. It also recalls that this obligation is accentuated in situations or areas where there is or has been detected a special risk for journalists working in the media. As highlighted in the report "Zonas silenciadas: regiones de alta peligrosidad para ejercer la libertad de expresión" (Silenced zones: regions of high danger for the exercise of freedom of expression), on many occasions the phenomenon of violence against journalists is accentuated in border or transit zones, in departments in the interior of the country and in rural areas or areas far from large urban centers. In order to prevent the consolidation of silenced areas and to confront those that already exist, it is necessary that the States commit themselves to the creation of a favorable environment for the exercise of freedom of expression, which can only be achieved if there is a comprehensive policy of protection, prevention and justice.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.