IFJ Condemns Detention of Indigenous Journalists by Colombian Police

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the detention of two journalists from indigenous communities in Colombia, who were held on charges of rebellion and aiding guerrillas.

The two have since been released but their case is yet another example of targeting of indigenous-community journalists by Colombian authorities.

On the morning of September 19, police arrested Griseldino Yafue Guetoto and Rubiel Lis Velasco. The officers presented themselves as officials from the Communications Ministry and expressed interest on the juridical situation of the indigenous radio station Uxwall Nasa Yugue Stereo (Radio Nasa) in southwest Colombia. Initially, undercover police officers convinced both journalists to go to the police station in Caldono. Once there, officers told them they would have to go to another town.

In the end, the journalists were taken to the Police Commander of Cauca and told they were detained and formally charged with rebellion and aiding guerrillas.

Yafue and Lis were imprisoned in Santander de Quilichao jail.

“We note with great concern news of our two colleagues captured through lies and with no evidence against them,” said Eduardo Márquez, the director of the IFJ’s Solidarity Center in Colombia. “This incident happened a day before the First National Indigenous Meeting of Communications was held in our country.”

Leaders of the indigenous Nasa community, the Association of Communitarian Councils of Caldono, the Regional Council of Indigenous Groups of Cauca and the National Organization of Indigenous Groups of Colombia (ONIC) called on authorities to release Yafue and Velasco. Organization leaders pointed out that the arrests are in fact kidnappings and State aggression that violate territorial autonomy and ignore the rights of indigenous communities observed in the ILO Convention 169 and National Constitution.

On July 11, 2005, the IFJ protested before the Colombian Ministry of Communications after it attempted to close Radio Nasa following a request for a hearing by indigenous authorities in Caloto.

According to Guillermo Chilo, indigenous governor of Caldono, this is not the first time authorities have harrassed the indigenous communities.

In another case, José Vicente Otero, a journalist who worked on the foundation of the radio station, was also detained under similar conditions and was later declared innocent.

The governor said the only evidence prosecutors had against the Yafue and Lis was the alleged testimony of unidentified people.

Yafue and Lis began working for the radio station four years ago on music and community programs. The station does not have a news program due to financial difficulties.

"The radio station exists thanks to the work of other journalists,” Chilo said. “The military came and said they wouldn’t allow us to disclose the capture of our two colleagues... There have been verbal confrontations with them in the past.”

Workers in charge of the station’s safety said they have prevented authorities from cutting off the electricity supply.

International Federation of Journalists
Solidarity Center