Colombia: Protected journalist under surveillance without her consent

Colombia’s National Protection Unit (UNP) has been accused of unlawfully collecting highly sensitive data about the movements of Claudia Julieta Duque, an investigative journalist who has faced serious death threats and psychological torture at the hands of the Colombian authorities.

Claudia Julieta Duque

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins growing calls for the UNP to explain how and why it collected thousands of records without her consent tracking her movements and for all the data to be returned to her

In a letter sent to the director of the UNP, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) claims to have detected "over 25,000 records, collected by the UNP, taken between February and August 2021 by the GPS device installed in the protection vehicle assigned to the journalist".

According to the organisation, the monitoring is "permanent, detailed and sometimes carried out in 30-second intervals" and includes the "date, time, exact location addresses, direction in which the vehicle is being driven and a Google Maps location link".

Claudia Julieta Duque has complained that she was never informed that the GPS device could carry out such detailed tracking and would be used to track her every move.


"In the inventory they give you when they give you the vehicle, the GPS does not even appear. In other words, it is information that was never made official, that I was never asked for permission or anything," the journalist told LatAm Journalism Review.

Persecuted and harassed for doing her job

For almost a decade, the journalist and her family have suffered persecution and harassment by official and unofficial agents in the service of the now-disbanded Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS).

The reason for the hostility towards Duque, who has had to flee the country three times since 2001, was her investigation into the murder of Jaime Garzón, known for his activism and involvement in favour of peace in the South American country.

The persecution against Duque was so intense and involved so many methods of intimidation that in 2017, Prosecutor's Office 189 of the Specialised Directorate against Human Rights Violations, which handled the case, stated that the facts met the characteristics of a crime against humanity.

In August 2020, the judiciary issued a landmark ruling against the Colombian state as directly responsible for the psychological torture suffered by Duque and obliging it to compensate her.

The IFJ has long supported Duque, including through its Safety Fund.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "It is appalling to discover that the UNP, which should be the guarantor of Duque's safety, is collecting sensitive information with no consent that could seriously endanger her life. We deplore these practices by the UNP and demand explanations. Claudia deserves to be able to live in safety."

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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