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Colombia


Carlos Lauría's testimony starts at 1:10 in the video.

Carlos Lauría, CPJ's Americas senior program coordinator, provided testimony before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of US House of Representatives on Tuesday. Lauría emphasized that violence and government harassment are the main emerging trends that illustrate the major challenges facing the press in the Western hemisphere.

A transcript of the full testimony can be found here.

Reporting from Catatumbo, a region in northern Colombia dominated by guerrillas and drug traffickers, has always been challenging.  But working conditions for journalists have seriously deteriorated amid nearly two months of anti-government protests pitting thousands of angry peasant farmers against soldiers and riot police.

A Colombian TV news director, who oversaw hard-hitting political coverage in central Antioquia department, resigned on June 28 after his editorial meeting was secretly recorded and used by politicians to push for his ouster.

Colombian police display weapons confiscated during a raid on a criminal gang in the town of Tarazá. (Reuters/Fredy Amariles)

Next to the mayor's office in the northern Colombian town of Caucasia sits a monument to government dysfunction: a half-built public library with broken windows, a water-stained floor, and rusting reinforcement rods protruding from concrete pillars.

(AFP/Pedro Pardo)

Almost half of the 67 journalists killed worldwide in 2012 were targeted and murdered for their work, research by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows. The vast majority covered politics. Many also reported on war, human rights, and crime. In almost half of these cases, political groups are the suspected source of fire. There has been no justice in a single one of these deaths.

Álvaro Uribe speaks at a 2011 congressional hearing about his alleged responsibility in the wiretapping of political opponents and journalists. (AP/William Fernando Martinez)

More than a year after he left office, Álvaro Uribe Vélez confessed that "it was not in him" to live as a former president. And in fact, having dominated Colombian politics for eight years, it has been impossible for Uribe to fade from the public eye since leaving office in August 2010. Instead of retiring to his ranch in Antioquia, he has lived in a heavily protected compound in the capital, Bogotá, with his wife and two sons. He spends his time traveling abroad for speaking engagements, has been a scholar at Georgetown University, and more recently announced the creation of a new political platform to oppose current President Juan Manuel Santos.  

The issue of impunity affects all Colombian citizens' access to real justice; it is not only a problem for crimes against journalists. Several human rights bodies and non-governmental organizations agree that Colombia dwells in a striking situation of impunity, especially concerning crimes committed during the ongoing armed conflict.

People remain stranded at the North Bus Terminal in Medellin, Antioquia department, on January 5, 2012 during an armed strike imposed by the criminal gang Los Urabeños. (Raul Arboleda/AFP)

At most newspapers, reporting for the society page isn't especially dangerous. But in the northern Colombian department of Córdoba, which is under siege from drug-trafficking gangs, even covering birthday parties can be risky.

Colombian journalists: between threats, exile

Medellín has the highest homicide rate in Colombia . (Reuters)

To be a journalist in Colombia, in a city like Medellín, is not easy -- even less so if you cover issues related to narcotrafficking.

Despite efforts by the authorities to control outbreaks of violence linked to drug trafficking, especially in the city's poorest neighborhoods, the situation isn't improving. According to the prosecutor's office, Medellín has the highest homicide rate in the country and one of the worst in Latin America.

Colombian police officers stop a car at the Arauca City border. (Reuters)

Although a long-running army offensive has improved security in much of Colombia, the oil-rich eastern province of Arauca remains a hot zone--for both combatants and journalists. This week, for example, the National Liberation Army (ELN), the smaller of the country's two guerrilla groups, called a transportation strike, effectively shutting down traffic and commerce throughout the province and making any vehicles on the highways fair game--no small event.

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