Freedom of Expression

Press Release 46/01


The Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression expresses serious concern over the death threats received by four Colombian journalists.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), at the request of this Rapporteur, asked the Colombian government to adopt precautionary measures to protect the life and personal safety of the four journalists.  

The information received indicates that a group known as Bloque Libertadores del Sur de las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) threatened three journalists and a cameraman with death in a communiqué sent to their offices in the town of Pasto, Nariño Department, Colombia. In that document, the illegal armed group accused the journalists of being  “dishonest” in their work, and warned them to quit their jobs in less than 48 hours; otherwise “they would be executed.”  The journalists receiving the threats were Germán Arcos, a cameraman with Caracol Televisión, Oscar Torres, Editor in Chief of Diario del Sur and a correspondent for Noticiero de las Siete , Cristina Castro, a correspondent for Noticiero RCN, and Alfonso Pardo, a correspondent for Semanario VOZ and a Peace Commissioner for Nariño Department. 

The Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression spoke by telephone with each of the threatened journalists, who indicated that they were afraid for their lives and concerned over the serious security conditions in which they were working in that area.  On repeated occasions, the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has expressed concern over the situation of the press in Colombia.  According to Principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression: 

“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.”  

The Rapporteur urges the Colombian government to conduct immediately a serious, effective investigation into these events and to offer protection to the four journalists who have been the victims of these threats.  At the same time, the Rapporteur is appealing to the Colombian authorities to make every effort to ensure that these acts do not go unpunished and to seek ways to provide effective protection to all members of the press and the media, so that they can perform their valuable work of keeping the public informed. 

Santiago A. Canton 
Executive Secretary 
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 
November 9, 2001 
Washington, D.C.