On 16 May, journalists Daniel Coronell, Carlos Lozano and Hollman Morris working in the Colombian capital of Bogotá received death threats in the form of bouquets of flowers to commemorate their anticipated deaths.
Two coffins arrived in the early hours of the morning at the old headquarters of the TV station, ‘Noticias Uno’, directed by Daniel Coronel. One of them mourned his death and the other that of his wife and child.
At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the director of the weekly paper, Voz, Carlos Lozano, received a floral arrangement at his office in Bogotá with the following note: “From the Montoya family for the burial of Carlos Lozano”. The person who delivered the bouquet was captured but subsequently released due to lack of substantial evidence.
At 7.50 pm, a bunch of white roses arrived at Hollman Morris’ house, with a card signed by the Henao family – the flowers were delivered by a tall, brown-haired man with an accent from the Atlantic Coast region in Colombia.
The following day, the Colombian President, Álvaro Úribe, publicly declared these threats against the media as “shameful for our democracy”. He added that, “Democratic Security is a policy that guarantees the safety of all our citizens, whatever their ideology, politics or religious beliefs”. Finally, President Úribe reaffirmed the need for public representatives to support the push to better protect journalists.
On 18 May, the threatened journalists came met with the Colombian Vice-President, Francisco Santos, and with representatives of the National Police, the Ministry of the Interior and Justice and the General Prosecutor, to define the necessary actions to be taken.
The government committed itself to offer protection to these particular journalists under threat as well as to their families so as to guarantee their ability to carry our their professional duties. The General Prosecutor committed himself to carrying out an investigation through the Human Rights Division. Finally, the police forces agreed to create a special group of investigation to support the work of the General Prosecutor.
Until now, the Nacional Police have only been able to establish that two of the three funeral bouquets were bought at a florist located in Paloquemao, a popular neighbourhood in the centre of Bogotá and another one which was ordered through a florist in the city of Pereira, in the southeast of the country.
According to Coronell, Morris y Lozano their last reports were connected to the recent massacre in the Antioquia region, which several farmers and a priest indicate was carried out by the National Army, while the government maintains that the attacks were carried out by the rebel group, the FARC. The three directors are linked by the fact that there are known for independently reporting on the attacks against the Government.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Press Freedom Foundation in Colombia (FLIP), the Press and Society Institute (IPYS) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), strongly condemn these threats against three journalists well-known for their high-quality work in the field of newsgathering.
All four organizations are calling on the government to fulfill its obligations to protect journalists, and on the General Prosecutor to thoroughly investigate the threats that restrain the ability of the media to carry out their work freely and safely.
For three years, Daniel Coronell, director of Noticias Uno, has been recognised as one of the most prominent Televisión reporters in Colombia. Coronell began to receive threatening phone-calls in April 2002, after publishing an article about the possible links between the President Álvaro Uribe Vélez and drug-trafficking. For reasons still unknown, Coronell received renewed threats in 2003. On that occasion he received a condolence card for the death of his newly-born daughter. On 22 April 2005, he received a threatening phone-call at his office.
Carlos Lozano, director of the weekly paper Voz, a publication of the Colombian Communist Party, has been a victim of several attacks and threats in recent years. The last registered attack took place in May 2002, when a car-bomb that was finally deactivated was found in front of his offices.
During the last two years, Hollman Morris has been director of Contravía, a weekly TV programme backed by the European Union and which documents cases of human rights violations in Colombia. Morris was already taken hostage several times and last year had his material temporarily confiscated and was held by the National Army, while he was carrying out a report on the public order situation in the department of Putumayo in the south of the country. In September 2000, he was forced to go into exile due threats linked to his work as editor of the newspaper, El Espectador.
IFJ Safety Centre Ceso-FIP
Press Freedom Foundation, FLIP
Press and Society Institute, IPYS
Reporters Without Borders, RSF
For more information contact the Press Freedom Foundation, FLIP in Bogotá, Colombia.
Tel: (571) 4 00 96 77, (571) 4 00 96 78. Fax: (571) 4 81 63 48.
E-mail: [email protected] o [email protected]
This information is the sole responsibility of the signature organisations. Please cite them at the moment of re-publication.