Miami, April 7, 2021 — In response to a recent decision by the Labor Cassation Chamber of the Colombian Supreme Court confirming the defamation conviction of journalist Vicky Dávila Hoyos and media outlet RCN, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“It is troubling that the Colombian Supreme Court confirmed the damages imposed on Vicky Dávila and RCN, disregarding international standards on press freedom,” said CPJ South and Central America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “This ruling sets a dangerous precedent that could inhibit journalists’ abilities to report freely and without the fear that they will face hefty fines for their coverage.”
In its March 24 decision, the Supreme Court upheld an appellate court ruling from October 15, 2020, which Dávila had contested. In that October ruling, the court ordered Dávila and RCN to pay more than $43,000 in damages to the family of a police colonel who was removed from his post after Dávila reported on allegations that he was corrupt, as CPJ documented at the time. The Supreme Court’s decision will be reviewed by the Constitutional Court, Dávila wrote on Twitter.
The Supreme Court wrote in its decision that freedom of expression had not been breached by the lower court’s ruling, adding that, in the exercise of journalism, “spewing value judgments and incriminating comments that conflict with impartiality, can contribute to triggering conflicts or violations of fundamental rights.”
In a statement, the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom condemned the ruling, saying that it “violates the freedom of the press and constitutes a dangerous precedent in the face of the phenomenon of growing judicial harassment in Colombia.”