Government hires prosecutors to handle crimes against journalists

New York, October 30, 2002—Rising crimes against journalists in Colombia prompted the Attorney General’s Office this month to add 12 new prosecutors to a unit dedicated to investigating attacks against the press, according to a statement from the office released on Monday, October 28.

The unit, which previously had four prosecutors based in the capital, Bogotá, will now have prosecutors working in seven additional towns and cities throughout the country.

“The culture of impunity that has pervaded Colombia for decades gives those who would silence journalists for their work free rein to commit violent crimes,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We therefore welcome the Colombian government’s new efforts to protect journalists.”

Violence has taken a heavy toll on the media this year in Colombia. Since January, at least two journalists have been killed for their work. (CPJ is also investigating the cases of four other journalists to determine if they were murdered because of their professional activities.) Others have been threatened or forced into hiding. None of these crimes has been solved.

The unit in the Attorney General’s Office charged with investigating attacks against the press was created in May 1999. However, a spokesperson told CPJ that the unit does not track court decisions on cases, so there is no way of knowing how effective the prosecutors have been.

Currently, Colombia is embroiled in a 38-year-old civil conflict that pits leftist rebels against the government and a right-wing paramilitary army. All sides have grown increasingly sensitive to press coverage. In addition, drug gangs have also targeted journalists for their work in recent years.