Journalists face grave danger, threats and assault reporting in Colombia
On 27th August 2017, Elmer Agudelo Vidales, a photojournalist and correspondent for the newspapers El País and Q Hubo, was attacked by a hit man in El Sembrador neighborhood in Palmira. The journalist died in the hospital hours later.
According to reports, the murder was due to a personal conflict and it was not linked to his work as a journalist. Nevertheless, the Federación Colombiana de Periodistas (Colombian Journalists' Federation) and the Círculo de Periodistas de Cali (Cali Journalists' Association) have requested the authorities not to disregard the possibility that the attack may have been related to Agudelo´s journalistic work.
Comunicado🔍Ataque y amenaza de muerte a Mauricio Cardoso, Periodista Judicial del Diario Extra en Caquetá. pic.twitter.com/yZl9u6Zpkb— Prensa APA (@apa_prensa) August 25, 2017
On 23rd August 2017, it was reported that three unidentified individuals armed with a knife attacked reporter Mauricio Cardoso, who works for the Extra Caquetá newspaper in the city of Florencia. Cardoso was taken to the emergency room at a nearby medical centre, where he was treated for his injuries. Police officers are pursuing multiple lines of investigation, including that the attack may have been related to Cardoso's work. According to information from the Committee to Protect Journalists, "Caquetá has historically been at the centre of the armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government, who signed a peace agreement in September 2016".
"The peace deal between the government and FARC guerrillas should mean that journalists in Colombia can work freely and without fear of violence. That is apparently not the case for Mauricio Cardoso. The authorities must investigate this brutal attack on him and bring the all those responsible to justice", said Robert Mahoney, Deputy Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
In a separate incident, journalists covering the mining strike in the municipalities of Segovia and Remedios of Antioquia have been victims of harassment and intimidation. Francisco Péres, a reporter for Teleantioquia News, received threats and was attacked with stones and intimidated by unidentified people. In addition, the anti-riot police forces tried to take away his camera. The local journalists' association Mesa de Derechos Humanos de los Periodistas de Medellín y Antioquia (Medellin and Antioquia Journalists' Human Rights Association) has publicly called for respect of press freedom in Remedios and Segovia. According to the Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (Freedom of the Press Foundation - FLIP), regional and national journalists covering the strike were also attacked and prevented from taking photos or videos during the strike.
In a different protest that occurred in August 2017 in Bogotá, journalist Alexei Castaño was attacked with tear gas by security forces from the Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios. Castaño was covering a protest against a landfill when security officers "threw a tear gas canister towards him and the media outlet vehicle".
In a positive development, FLIP announced that a court condemned Juan Calilo Ortiz to 47 years in prison for the murder of journalist Flor Alba Núñez that occurred in 2015. In a statement, FLIP "recognized the decision as a positive development in the fight against impunity".
For over 40 days during the months of July and August 2017, miners from Antioquia region carried out a strike. It was reported that during the strike, the community took to the street to peacefully demonstrate and were met with excessive force by the anti-riot police. Clashes with police forces led to several people injured and at least two killed. The police also claimed that at least 15 police officers were injured.
On 21st September 2017, Jose Alberto Turijano, a social leader of Marcha Patriótica movement, was shot dead in the region of Corinto, Cauca when about 50 soldiers opened fire on a group of approximately 400 local villagers. The people, along with Turijano, had gathered to ask for the release of two villagers who had been detained earlier. It was reported that another two people were injured.