Colombia must improve its fight against impunity, says report

Colombia's struggle to end impunity for attacks on journalists got the lowest score on the Freedom of Expression and Access to Public Information Index, according to the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP in Spanish) on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

FLIP reported that the state only punished three out of the 23 attacks on journalists by state employees in 2011. The situation is even more serious in departments like Antioquia, where reporters face situations similar to war correspondents, according to the newspaper El Espectador.

The study from the Antonio Nariño Project (PAN in Spanish) measured 42 variables in four dimensions: access to information, impunity, legal and political environment for freedom of expression, and attacks on journalists, reported the newspaper El Tiempo. The index, which evaluated each dimension on a scaled from zero to 100, also showed that Colombia did not make the grade on freedom of expression, scoring 50.3 out of 100. "It would need 60 to pass," FLIP told El Tiempo.

Another troubling find was the country's score of 38 for access to public information, a situation that worsens in the departments along the Pacific coast, reported El Tiempo.

Surprisingly, the dimension with the best score was attacks on journalists with 74.8 out of 100. However, PAN noted, this may have to do with a change in the kinds of attacks reporters face. Instead of killing them, it is more common in Colombia for aggressors to threaten reporters through non-lethal means, including lawsuits for libel and defamation.

The index took PAN two years to complete and included the participation of 200 journalists, editors and social investigators in the country. The goal is to improve the working conditions for journalists in Colombia, the group said on its website. PAN is an alliance between FLIP, the Colombian Association of Newspaper and Media Editors, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Colombia and the Foundation for a New Iberoamerican Journalism.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.