Civil society warns new decree could undermine freedom of association

Association

In late November, the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) issued a report warning that a new decree on contracting with not-for-profit organisations constitutes a threat to the freedom of association. According to the umbrella organisation, the proposed reform would violate civil society organisations' rights to autonomy, good name and access to public resources. CCONG emphasises the need for a comprehensive review of the regulations that currently apply to the not-for-profit sector in order to establish more effective instruments for the promotion and strengthening of civil society, including procedures for registration, contracting, monitoring and accountability.

FLIP - Numbers of violations of the freedom of expression and victims in 2016
Violations of the freedom of expression and victims in 2016. Source: www.flip.org.co

Expression

The Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP) documented 197 freedom of expression violations so far in 2016, 50 more than in 2015. A total of 232 victims were involved in these violations, the most common form of which was threats against journalists. These findings were backed up by a report by several press freedom organisations submitted during Colombia's Universal Periodic Review on 19th and 20th October. Data from the Committee to Protect Journalists cited in the document placed Colombia in 11th place on the list of the most dangerous countries for journalists around the world in 2015.

Several threats towards journalists and acts obstructing ournalistic work were reported during October and November. On 27th October, for instance, two journalists working for Nortevisión had their camera confiscated while taking shots during a session of the Municipal Council in Montería. As they were recording, the journalists' camera was grabbed by a councilman who, according to the channel's reporters, was annoyed by an article about the approval of the city budget published by Nortevisión the previous day. The councilman admitted to deleting the video in which he was featured because he was allegedly recorded during a break without his authorisation. He subsequently called security and had the journalists expelled from the building without returning their camera.

On 13th November, Lucy Flórez, a correspondent of Noticias Uno and Las Noticias de Telecaribe in Barranquilla received an SMS containing personal threats aimed at her and her family. The incident occurred after she broadcasted information on the alleged links between a congressperson and the caretaker of a controversial businesswoman, who had been convicted of money laundering and other crimes. Barranquilla journalists staged a street protest in solidarity with their colleague.

On 19th November, the news portal www.ondaopita.com published an article condemning the alleged involvement of the Mayor of the Neiva Municipality in bribing city council members with a view to securing their approval for a the modification of the municipal budget and development plan. Two of the portal's journalists received various warnings, including intimidating phone calls and Facebook messages and threats of defamation lawsuits. Due to lack of security, they eventually removed the article from the web.

On 1st December, a vehicle distributing the day's printed edition of newspapers Boyacá 7 Días and El Tiempo in the municipalities of Tunja, Duitama, Sogamoso and the surrounding provinces, was intercepted by five people and the copies stolen. It is not yet clear what piece of published information provoked this reaction, or who was responsible for it.