Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya returns reparations she received as victim of the armed conflict

By Yenibel Ruiz

Jineth Bedoya Lima, the Colombian journalist who was kidnapped, tortured and subjected to sexual violence on May 25, 2000 by a paramilitary group in retaliation for her work as a journalist, formally returned the administrative reparations that the Colombian State awarded her as a victim of the armed conflict, according to newspaper El Espectador.

“Gentlemen of the State, the harm that this armed conflict has caused me and my family is not worth the 24 million 640 thousand (Colombian) pesos that you awarded me. My reparation is the truth, that is all I ask. You have revictimized me with your lies, your omissions and your lack of action,” the journalist said, according to the Colombian agency Colprensa.

The journalist agreed to be part of the reparations process led by the Unit for Comprehensive Attention and Reparation for Victims (Unidad de Atención y Reparación Integral a las Víctimas), but then said that “the reparations to which I have the right could never be used as a mechanism for justice in my case,” according to the newspaper El Tiempo.

According to El Tiempo, Bedoya Lima always refused the monetary compensation—approximately $8,400 U.S. dollars—which remained in a bank without being collected for six months. However, in 2014, when the government declared May 25 as the National Day of Dignity for Women Victims of Sexual Violence, she agreed to receive the money, the newspaper added.

The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP, for its acronym in Spanish) reported that Bedoya Lima’s decision was based on the “enormous contradictions among authorities in the handling of her case.” According to the FLIP, the State said that it is seeking justice in this case, but does not take responsibility for its participation in the crime “whereas some evidence does indicate the responsibility of State agents in the abduction, torture and sexual violence against the journalist.

For years, the journalist has demanded truth and justice in the crime against her. During the most recent public hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—the entity that has been reviewing this case since 2011— she highlighted that the possibility of the participation of State agents in this crime has never been investigated.

During this hearing, the State presented the compensation that the journalist received as proof of progress in the case, according to El Tiempo. It also presented the sentences against former paramilitary members Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco and Mario Jaime Mejía as examples of great progress.

“Not once in all these years have I received any humanitarian or economic support from any government or from the State. And that is why I want to be consistent with my actions,” the journalist said, according to El Espectador. “Today, I give back this compensation to that State, which has not been able to find justice and truth in my case and in the thousands of cases like mine, where we have suffered sexual violence.”

The FLIP, which legally represents Bedoya Lima, affirmed that it supports this decision and demanded that the State provide guarantees so that the criminal investigations may move forward “in order to judge and punish the persons that are still not linked to the case.” The FLIP also asked the IACHR to make a decision on the case so that it may reach the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The crime against Bedoya Lima

On May 25, 2000, Bedoya Lima was kidnapped at the entrance of the La Modelo prison in Bogota, where she had arrived for an interview while investigating a corruption network inside the country’s prisons.

After being tortured, the reporter was abandoned near the city of Villavicencio, in the Meta department in the central region of Colombia.

In 2012, the crimes to which she was a victim were declared crimes against humanity by the Attorney General’s office in Colombia, within the context of violence against the country’s press as a “war tactic.” Nevertheless, the sentences against the two former paramilitary members in 2016 are the only ones in this case.

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.