IFJ and Vintu Foundation grant humanitarian aid to family of murdered Colombian journalist

In the programme of special assistance for families of murdered journalists’, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and Vintu Foundation for Excellency in Education and Journalism, granted financial aid during a year to Hilda Rojas, widow of journalist Néstor Henry Rojas Monje, murdered on December 28, 1991, in Arauca, north eastern Colombia.

The request was submitted by the Corporation of Journalists of Arauca (COPAR), affiliated to the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER), organization representing more than 1.000 colleagues in 18 departments of the country.

“On behalf of the journalism community of Arauca, I thank specially the IFJ and of course our organisation, COPAR. If we had not united our efforts led by the IFJ Centre of Solidarity, Ceso FIP, it would have been impossible to mend, at least financially, a death that remains in impunity”, said Henry Colmenares, President of COPAR. “I call upon Colombian authorities to provide a solution and stop the impunity in this case. What we lack is justice”.

The IFJ, the world’s biggest organisation of journalists, with more than 600.000 members in 115 countries and Brussels – based Vintu Foundation, officially launched the special assistance fund to provide humanitarian aid for 10 families of journalists victims of intolerance, on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day.

The selected recipients come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq (3 families), Philippines (3 families), Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Colombia.

“I thank the kindness of the IFJ to contact me and give us a voice of encouragement”, expressed Hilda on a letter sent to the IFJ Centre of Solidarity in Colombia. “You give me a light of hope, after so many years of hard work as the bread winner of my family”.

Henry Rojas Monje worked for 14 years as EL TIEMPO correspondent in Arauca and also at the radio station Voz del Cinaruco and was the owner of the CONCORDIA FRONTERIZA newspaper. He was the father of four and was in charge of his mother.

The colleague was murdered outside his home by Wilson Daza Rozo and José Alberto Cristiano Riaño, professional soldiers of the XVIII Army Brigade. The murder occurred in front of his 2 year old son. Both criminals are currently in different prisons of the country.

Daza, the soldier who shot Henry, subsequently suffered three murder attempts while serving time in the city of Cúcuta, department of Norte de Santander. During one of the attacks, Daza lost his eyesight.

To this date, the intellectual authors behind Henry’s murder remain unknown.

“Now that impunity reigning in this crime and in more than 100 cases of Colombian journalists killed is the response of authorities, at least an international aid helps to alleviate the dire economic situation of Henry’s family. Solidarity is exactly one of the reasons behind the existence of the organisations of journalists”, said Eduardo Márquez, FECOLPER President and Ceso FIP Director.

Henry’s family sued the nation over the crime. The Administrative Tribunal of Arauca on February of 1996 condemned the Ministry of Defense for considering the murder occurred as a “consequence of a failure in the service provided by the National Army”, and ordered the State institution to pay 50 million Colombian pesos (Approximately 25.000 USD). The verdict was appealed.

In June of the same year, the file of the case was transferred to the third Section of the State Council located in Bogotá, organism in charge of the appeal. Henry’s relatives denounced the disappearance of fundamental evidence. Due to the mysterious disappearance of the file weighting more than 75 kilograms, a reconstruction of a new file was ordered.

Subsequently, in February of 1997, The Administrative Tribunal of Arauca, once again condemned the Nation and ordered it to pay 117 million Colombian pesos (approximately 58.000 USD) to the Rojas family for material and physical harms caused. The verdict was appealed by the family who stated the sum did not reflect the years of hard work Hilda has gone through to sustain her four children and mother in law.

On April 25 of 2007, The appointed counsellor, Mauricio Fajardo Gómez, informed of his impediment to act in the process. The impediment was accepted on July 19 and notified on the 31st of the same month. Now, another counsellor will be assigned to take over the case.

In 2007, the Henry Rojas case registers 16 years of impunity. The IFJ, CESO FIP and FECOLPER support Henry’s wife, children and colleagues in their call for justice.

Centre of Solidarity – Colombia

FECOLPER represents more than 1000 journalists in 19 departments of Colombia

IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 115 countries