Among the regulations for Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, the government barred the press from publishing Election Day news about alleged voter harassment or other irregularities unless it was confirmed by an official source. Local press groups said the rule limited important information on the very sort of illegal actions that have beset Colombian elections in the past. Juan Manuel Santos, a former defense minister and ally of President Álvaro Uribe, outpaced Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus by a wide margin in the Sunday balloting but fell short of a majority, sending the race to a June 20 runoff.
Minister of Interior Fabio León Valencia Cossio signed the news coverage decree on Tuesday. The provision banned coverage of alleged illegal actions on Election Day, such as harassment by armed groups or vote tampering, said the local journalist organization Círculo de Periodistas de Bogotá in a press release on Thursday. “If a journalist knows about an action by a criminal group affecting the public order, he or she will need official confirmation prior to releasing the information,” Andrés Morales, executive director of local group Foundation for the Press Freedom, told CPJ last week.
The Colombian government has issued similar Election Day decrees since 1994, Morales said. According to the Colombian news Web site La Silla Vacía, the provision was also implemented in the March congressional elections.