Threats towards journalists around Colombia are on the rise, said the country’s Foundation for the Freedom of Press (FLIP) Wednesday.
Executive Director of FLIP Andres Morales told Colombia Reports that the number of threats against members of the press in 2011 has already eclipsed the total for 2010; there have been 57 threats to journalists so far in 2011, compared to 49 threats in 2010.
The FLIP director specified that journalists who are investigating corruption in the upcoming elections, as well those who report on individuals with legal trouble, are particularly in danger.
While the organization found that most of the intimidations in departments such as Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca, and areas of Santander were merely threats, it pointed to the departments of Antioquia and Cauca as having especially high instances of threats turning into serious attacks against members of the press.
According to Morales, so far this year in Antioquia alone, one journalist has been murdered, one has been shot while covering a story, two have been illegally detained, and another five have been threatened. On Tuesday, Medellin-based journalist Mary Luz Avendaño was forced to flee the country after receiving death threats for several months.
While most of the aggressors who threaten journalists remain unidentified, the director explained that many of these threats come from criminal organizations and guerrillas.
“When an aggression or a threat reaches a journalist, [FLIP] documents the case and the state has some preventative or protective measures that they give to the journalist,” said Morales.
Morales acknowledged that the state has a program through the Interior Ministry to protect journalists who have received threats.
However, he said that the problem does not lie with the protection of journalists, but rather with the high rate of impunity; the police are not investigating and prosecuting those who intimidate and attack members of the press.
“If there is no progress in the investigations and [the police] do not identify the aggressors, they do not punish them and this more or less does not make sense,” said Morales. “It becomes a vicious circle because they continue threatening journalists so the state continues to provide material resources for the protection of journalists.”
According to FLIP, Colombia ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America for journalists.