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Home > Publications > Quill > Colombian journalists unite, form federation


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Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Colombian journalists unite, form federation

by Bruce Swaffield

In a country that BCC News describes as “one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to operate,” the media had a reason to celebrate recently. On May 2, the Colombian Federation of Journalists was launched with the help of the International Federation of Journalists and the National Union of Journalists.

The group’s slogan is “a national union for free, responsible and safe journalism.” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said, “It signals the creation of a new solidarity in the fight against impunity, exploitation and corruption that is the scourge of journalism in Colombia.”

Based on past history and current conditions in the country, the new federation will face an uphill battle. During the past two decades, the press has been attacked repeatedly by the government, political organizations and guerilla forces.

“In particular, journalists working outside the capital, Bogota, who attempt to investigate corruption and drug trafficking ... continue to face threats, harassment and physical attacks at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries, members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, National Liberation Army, corrupt officials, drug traffickers, and other common criminals,” according to the International Press Institute.

The BBC says more than 120 Colombian journalists were killed in the 1990s.

Twelve members of the media are known to have been killed in the past six years alone. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Colombia as the fourth deadliest country for the press.

Media in the news

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) stays true to its predator reputation in new wave of attacks on press

More journalists are being threatened in communications and in person as guerrillas of FARC renew efforts to control the press. (Reporters Without Borders, June 21)

Detained suspects confess to killing radio journalist for the cash he was carrying

Reporters Without Borders said June 19 that two people recently confessed to killing radio journalist Garrid Muñoz Tello, who traveled to Bogota on June 13 to collect the equivalent of 80,000 Euros.

Government admits illegally tapping journalists’ phone calls for past two years.

The Colombian defense minister has admitted that for the past two years, the national police have illegally tapped phones calls of government officials, opposition leaders and journalists. (Reporters Without Borders, May 16)

Country facts

•Population is between 44 million and 45 million; 90 percent are Roman Catholic.

•Daily time throughout the country is the same as New York during EST.

•Overall, Colombia has two main seasons: summer (dry) and winter (wet). However, the climate varies considerably because of altitude.

•About 42 percent of all exports (petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, emeralds, apparel, bananas and cut flowers) are sent to the U.S.

•According to the U.S. government, 49 percent of the people in Colombia live below the poverty line.

•Independence Day (from Spain in 1810) is celebrated July 20.

•The country is separated into 32 departments (provinces) and one capital district (Bogota).

History

•1525: Conquest by Spain begins.

•1810 (July 20): People of Bogota declare independence.

•1819: Republic of Gran Colombia created with Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador.

•1829-30: Gran Colombia dissolves; Colombia and Panama remain one.

•1899-1903: “The War of the Thousand Days” in which 120,000 people were killed in civil war; Panama becomes an independent state.

•1948-57: 250,000 to 300,000 killed in another civil war.

•1965-71: Numerous guerrilla groups and factions created.

•2000: “Plan Colombia” begins to halt drug trafficking

(dates from BBC News Timeline).

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