Colombian military intelligence hacks communication between journalists and FARC in Cuba

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  • February 13, 2014

By Diego Cruz

During peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Colombian government spied on communications between the group’s spokespeople and international journalists who were covering the events, Univisión reported.

Hackers from Colombian military intelligence intercepted at least 2,638 emails between the FARC’s spokesmen, Hermes Aguilar and Bernardo Salcedo, and journalists from various international media, including AP, Reuters, Notimex, Prensa Latina, EFE and others, as well as Colombian media El Tiempo and Caracol Radio.

Univisión had access to several emails belonging to 38 journalists and media, which consisted primarily of requests for information and interviews.

At least two journalists, Sagrario García-Mascaraque from Televisión España and Marisol Gómez Giraldo from Tiempo de Bogotá, confirmed the content of the emails belonged to them and were angered by the government’s actions.

“I shouldn’t be surprised because now everybody is doing it, like the United States with chiefs of State, but it bothers and angers me that they violate privacy this way,” García-Mascaraque told Univisión.

An investigation by Semana magazine had already revealed the existence of a Colombian military intelligence center in Bogotá disguised as a restaurant and dedicated to intercept emails and other forms of communication.

Vicente Pimienta, an internet security expert, told Univisión this type of action was not limited to Colombia and Cuba but was rather part of a global pattern. He also mentioned another problem: military hackers may have compromised the journalists’ computers and obtained other emails aside from those related to the negotiations.

According to Ignacio Gómez, president of the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), these actions have a negative impact on journalism in Colombia, El País reported.

“This type of interception affects one of the most important values in journalism, which is the trust between journalists and their sources,” Gomez said.

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.