Colombia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Colombia

Colombia

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

63

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

32

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

19

Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the 1991 constitution, and libel laws are rarely used to silence journalists. In March, the libel case against columnist Roberto Posada was dropped by prosecutors. President Alvaro Uribe proposed antiterrorism legislation that restricted travel and allowed mail interception and wiretapping without a warrant in specific regions; this law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in August on a procedural technicality. Journalists were also concerned that government restrictions on reporting on official talks with paramilitary groups, which required accreditation approved only in Bogota and during a three-day window, would limit media freedom. A climate of impunity exists, with most violators of press freedom going unpunished.

Colombia continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a journalist, with the ongoing internal conflict and corruption issues particularly difficult to cover. Guerrilla forces, paramilitary groups, government security forces, and local officials all impede the free exercise of journalism. A growing number of journalists practice self-censorship because of fear of reprisals. At least 1 journalist was killed during 2004, and 4 were forced into exile because of death threats; more than 37 journalists reported threats. On February 4, news director Oscar Alberto Polanco was killed leaving the television station where he worked in Valle; he had denounced corruption in the local government. In April, radio journalist Jorge Elias Corredor Quintero survived an assassination attack that killed his stepdaughter, while reporter Cristian Herrera fled Colombia in September after receiving threatening calls following articles on crime and corruption implicating police forces and local officials.

Paramilitary forces were responsible for a number of attacks against journalists. In January, members of the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) detained and tortured television host Ines Pena; she was told not to continue with her television program. Left-wing guerrillas were also responsible for attacks against the media. Presumed National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas threatened three radio journalists in Santander. In October, guerrillas with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) detained television journalist Luis Carlos Burbano and photographer Mauricio Mesa in Putumayo, releasing them a day later. Later that month, the FARC detained two journalists from Canal Caracol, also in Putumayo. Security forces occasionally prevented journalists from reporting. In June, four journalists in Barrancabermeja reported threats, harassment, and in one case physical attacks by police as they attempted to report on a protest march.

Colombian media are predominantly privately owned, and numerous print and broadcast outlets provide diverse views. However, ownership remains somewhat concentrated in the hands of a few business conglomerates. The government tends to use its advertising money to influence media coverage.