Press freedom organisations have documented the high levels of aggression inflicted by police towards journalists covering recent months of protests, as Colombia has seen unprecedented public mobilisations to demand economic justice, protection for human rights and implementation of the peace agreement.
New findings by the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the International Press Association of Colombia (APIC) show at least 314 acts of aggression committed against journalists since the latest round of National Strike protests began in late April. Police were responsible for the majority – in at least 195 cases – with the perpetrators unclear in several other instances. Public officials were also behind at least nine acts of aggression towards journalists.
The 314 documented incidents include 129 cases of physical aggression, 52 threats, 28 obstructions of journalists’ work, 25 cases of harassment, 18 thefts or elimination of material, 15 arbitrary attacks on social media, 15 illegal detentions, nine cases of damage to equipment, seven denials of access to information, five cases of exclusion, four cases of surveillance or encroachment and three cyber attacks on websites. The number of media outlets impacted is 28, while Bogota has seen the highest number of aggressive incidents towards journalists, with 99, followed by the regions of Valle del Cauca, with 52, and Antioquia, with 45.
Journalists, especially those working at independent outlets which closely scrutinise state actions around human rights and peace, face many risks in Colombia, with a number killed in recent years. Nevertheless, independent media has proven crucial to documenting state abuses and raising international awareness over the alarming human rights situation in Colombia.