For a month, U.S.
officials in Bogotá told Colombian journalist Hollman Morris that his request for a U.S.
visa to study at Harvard as a prestigious Nieman
Fellow had been denied on grounds relating to terrorist activities as
defined by the U.S. Patriot Act, and that the decision was permanent and that there were no grounds for appeal. It was the first time in the storied history
of the Nieman
Foundation that a journalist had been prohibited from traveling not by his
own nation, such as, say, South Africa’s apartheid regime back in 1960, but by
Nieman Curator Bob Giles in the Los Angeles Times.
A coalition of groups including the Nieman Foundation, Human Rights Watch, CPJ, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma (where Morris was also a fellow), the Open Society Institute, the Knight Foundation, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, the Inter-American Press Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, PEN American Center, the Washington Office on Latin America, and the North American Congress for Latin America rallied to Morris’ defense, publicly and privately imploring U.S. agencies to reverse the decision. Last week, the multilateral Organization of American States also asked the State Department to grant Morris the visa.
Morris wrote this afternoon in an e-mail to the above groups: “I just got out of the U.S. Embassy and they gave me the visa.” He went on: “I am very happy, and I know none of this would have been possible without you.”
CPJ and other groups
are happy, too. Although the month-long denial of the visa raises questions that
remain unanswered. Such as: Did
After news of the
This is a charge has
been levied against Morris before, by Colombian officials as high-ranking as
President Alvaro Uribe, who has accused
Morris of being “an accomplice of terrorism” over his reporting of the
Colombia’s leftist guerrillas. But human
rights groups suspect that senior Colombian officials have really lashed out
at Morris over his
reports on rightist paramilitary forces linked to senior Colombian
government officials. At the same time, Morris was one of the Colombian
journalists who was spied on and had phone calls and e-mails
frequently visited the