Colombian journalists fear effects of bill that criminalizes information leaks

Colombian journalists and media outlets are concerned that a newly proposed intelligence law would punish public officials who leak information to the press and lead to censorship, RCN Radio reports.

The new law is meant prevent power abuses like the notorious wiretapping scandal, in which Colombian intelligence agency (DAS) officials in the government of former President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) illegally monitored phone calls and emails by judges, journalists, opposition politicians, and human rights activists.

However, journalists argue that the bill will limit government accountability information access, due to an article that establishes five to eight-year prison terms for any “who in the benefit of themselves or others, or to the detriment of another, divulge or use the contents of a document that should be confidential,” Radio Gutapuri explains.

Major publications like El Heraldo, Semana, and El Espectador have said bill will ultimately restrict the availability of public information.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” wrote El Heraldo in an editorial. “It is clear that this bill goes straight to the media’s jugular, specifically the right that allows all citizens to be well-informed,” the paper said.

See the full text of the bill in Spanish here. For more coverage of information access issues in Latin America, see this Knight Center map.

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.