Colombian prosecutor files legal action against journalist; press organizations reject ‘judicial harassment’

After learning that a Colombian prosecutor had lodged a tutela – the country's judicial recourse to restore fundamental rights – against journalist María Jimena Duzán due to an opinion column, scandal broke out in the country as colleagues and press freedom organizations expressed their rejection of the use of this mechanism.

The tutela originated from one of Duzán’s columns published in magazine Semana on June 3 titled ¿Pacto de Silencio? (Pact of Silence?), in which the journalist questions the work of the Prosecutor's Office when investigating the corruption case of the Brazilian company Odebrecht in the country, according to El Espectador.

In her text, the columnist talks about a complaint made before this investigating body by two former presidents of Colombia about an alleged donation from Odebrecht to the campaign of then-candidate and now former President Juan Manuel Santos, the newspaper added. The denunciation of the former presidents would have detailed the amount and date of this donation.

“María Jimena Duzán explained that there allegedly was an interest for the investigation to not advance and that, moreover, the Prosecutor's Office is not investigating the issue of the complaint,” El Espectador wrote.

What was written by Duzán upset the prosecutor of the case, Daniel Hernández Martínez, who filed the tutela on the grounds that the column affected his right to honor and professional integrity, according to Caracol Radio. According to Duzán, she does not understand why this prosecutor filed the tutela when she does not even mention him in her column.

In this tutela, the prosecutor Hernandez demands that Duzán rectify what she wrote, because, he said, investigations have been made into the complaint that she mentions, and because there have also been detentions in the Odebrecht scandal, El Espectador published.

This type of tutela attacks the freedom of the press, first because it is a tutela that presents a relationship of totally unequal forces: a prosecutor, who is the Odebrecht prosecutor, against a journalist,” Duzán said, according to Caracol Radio. “Prosecutors in general are here to investigate, not to impose tutelas on journalists, especially those that have to do with investigations they are doing or that they are not doing well, which is why one can not only give opinions, but also investigate.”

For Duzán, it is the Attorney General of the Nation, Néstor Humberto Martínez, who is really behind this tutela, according to the RCN website.

After learning that the judge had accepted this tutela last weekend, different journalists, columnists and press freedom organizations expressed their rejection and showed their support for Duzán.

Pedro Vaca, director of the Foundation for Freedom of the Press, wrote on his Twitter account “when public officials scorn criticism and go to court to force journalists to think like them: we are facing judicial harassment with censorship purposes. I trust that this tutela will not prosper and we are ready to defend @MJDuzan.”

Columnists from Semana, Daniel Coronell and Daniel Samper Ospina also expressed their rejections through the social network.

“I reject the tutela to silence @MJDuzan. Her voice is vital for citizens to know more and decide better,” Coronell wrote.

“All my solidarity to @MJDuzan before this intimidating tutela from one of the most powerful officials in the country: it is noted that the Attorney General does not know her, if he believes he will silence her [this] way…,” Samper wrote.

On Twitter, the hashtag #EstamosConMariaJimenaPorque (We are with Maria Jimena because) was trending in which users expressed their reasons for supporting the journalist. For example, the director of the magazine Semana, Alejandro Santos Rubino, said: “#EstamosConMariaJimenaPorque she is a symbol of independent journalism and because she is a brave journalist!”

On Twitter, Duzán posted thanks for the support that she has received in recent days. “It’s the first time that a prosecutor filed a tutela against a journalist and it’s clear that his objective is to silence me. They will not achieve it.,” part of her Tweet read.