Colombian court orders National Police to correct statement given in 1996

In what has become a historic decision, the Council of State of Colombia ordered the National Police to correct a statement given in 1996 that affected two businessmen, said the newspaper El Tiempo.  The Director of the Police will have to give a press conference and correct the information given to a television news program as an “exclusive” that linked two businessmen with a drug cartel, said the paper.

The decision relates to a quote from October 23, 1996, when a joint operation between Colombian authorities and the DEA intercepted 11 tons of cocaine on board a Panamanian ship near the coast of Ecuador.  In statements given to the press by the then director of police, it was said that two businessmen working for drug trafficker Víctor Patiño Fómeque, said the newspaper.

This information caused financial and commercial damages to the businessmen, who confirmed they were not part of any criminal group, said the website of radio station Caracol Radio.  The high court cited failures to turn in information that was mismanaged by the intelligence services and said that “leaking false information violates the freedom of the press,” added El Tiempo and Caracol Radio.

In addition to correcting the information, the National Police will also have to pay an indemnity to the businessmen.

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.