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Police are seen in Bogota, Colombia, on March 25, 2020. Authorities recently suspended meetings of the country's journalist protection program amid fears of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP/Fernando Vergara)

Colombian protection unit suspends risk assessments ‘indefinitely’ due to coronavirus

April 2, 2020 2:15 PM ET

New York, April 2, 2020 -- In response to the Colombian National Protection Unit’s announcement that it would be suspending the country’s Risk Assessment and Protection Measures Recommendation Committee, which grants protective measures to journalists, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“While we understand that the Colombian response to the coronavirus pandemic has made in-person meetings impossible, there is no reason the National Protection Unit cannot find a remote solution that will allow the committee to continue working,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick. “At a moment of increasing deadly violence against human rights defenders and journalists across Colombia, the state cannot use the coronavirus as an excuse to abandon its responsibility to protect its most at-risk citizens.”

The committee suspended meetings to conduct risk assessments and respond to requests for protective measures on March 19, and announced the decision on March 31, according to a report by the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP). The committee said it plans to resume meeting once there are “conditions necessary” for relevant officials to participate, according to that report.

The National Protection Unit, founded in 2011, guards hundreds of people under threat, including union leaders, human rights activists, politicians, and journalists, according to CPJ research.