Freedom of Expression

Press Release 60/02


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at the OAS, Dr. Eduardo A. Bertoni, expresses concern over the death threats received by Colombian journalists Omar García and Carlos Pulgarín in Peru.  

The information received indicates that on August 2, 2002, journalists Omar García and Carlos Pulgarín were threatened with death. The threats were received via the telephones and email accounts of an organization for the protection of freedom of expression based in Peru. The message sent by email was also received in other similar organizations and in a Colombian educational institution where Pulgarín worked. Part of the message referred to the supposed murder of Carlos Pulgarín and also expressed: “...for a Colombia free of loudmouth journalists (“periodistas sapos”), Free Colombia...Murder to Journalists.”  The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression believes that this message constitutes a serious threat to journalists and advocates of freedom of expression.  

On repeated occasions, this Office has expressed concern over the situation of  journalists in Colombia.  According to Principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, threats to social communicators violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. 

More than one year ago, García and Pulgarín had to flee Colombia after they had been threatened by armed dissident groups in that country. Since then, the two journalists have been living in Peru under the protection of several freedom of expression organizations. It should be recalled that Omar García had to flee his country after the attack that took place in July, 2002, in which his colleague José Dubiel Vásquez, director of the radio La Voz de la Selva, in Caqueta, Colombia, was murdered and García was wounded.         

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Dr. Bertoni, recalls the responsibility of the OAS member States to protect the right to freedom of expression and appeals to the Colombian authorities to seek mechanisms that provide effective protection to all members of the press and advocates of freedom of expression. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur calls upon Peruvian authorities to investigate the threats against Omar García and Carlos Pulgarín.   

Washington, D.C. August, 7, 2002.