Concern in Colombia around new threats to journalists and political and social leaders

Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP for its acronym in Spanish) rejected threats against journalists Jineth Bedoya Lima and Salud Hernández Mora, as well as political and social leaders, allegedly proffered by a block of the illegal armed group Águilas Negras. The organization also demanded that authorities guarantee protection so that the journalists can continue with their work.

The threats were reported on Nov. 27 through Twitter by House Representative Ángela Robledo, one of seven women threatened in a pamphlet allegedly from the group. Robledo said she received the document via email.

“We give them a few days to leave the city of Bogotá now that we have located them all in order to fill them with lead. It is not a game,” reads the document, allegedly signed by Águilas Negras – a group formed after the demobilization of paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC).

Although the pamphlet is dated October 2017, it was only recently reported by Robledo who said she received it a few days ago, El Espectador reported.

Bedoya Lima and Hernández Mora are two well-known journalists who have covered the Colombian armed conflict for years. Hernández Mora, a Spanish-Colombian journalist, was abducted along with other reporters in May 2016 by the ELN guerrilla group. This is the fourth threat Bedoya Lima has received since she traveled to Cuba as one of the victims' representatives within the framework of the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC, according to FLIP.

FLIP demanded that the National Protection Unit (UNP) guarantee the necessary protections for the journalists to continue with their trade, while also demanding that the Attorney General's Office investigate these threats to guarantee freedom of the press in the country.

“It is inadmissible that these threats have not been cleared up. The impunity of these attacks on press freedom only encourages the repetition of intimidation as a mechanism of censorship," FLIP said about the repeated threats against Bedoya Lima. "Finally, we urge the National Government, especially the

Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior, to offer answers about the extent of this intimidation and the measures they will take to guarantee press freedom."

Colombia's Ombudsman's Office also demanded that the Attorney General's Office investigate the threats against these women, including senator and presidential candidate Claudia López; high counselor for Victims, Peace and Reconciliation, Ángela Anzola; candidate for the Vice Presidency of Colombia for the political group of the FARC, Imelda Daza; as well as the social leader Luz María Díaz, according to site Crónica Viva.

“The Ombudsman's Office rejects any act of violence directed at women defenders, leaders, journalists, and, in general, all women who, through the exercise of their work in defense of rights, are victims of threats; this situation limits the full development of their rights, especially when life, freedom and security are compromised," the entity said in a statement.

Although lethal violence against journalists has diminished in Colombia - in 2016 there were no recorded cases of journalists killed for reasons related to their work, while one case is being investigated this year - organizations such as FLIP have reported that threats and other forms of censorship have increased in the country. Likewise, it has pointed to high rates of impunity in crimes against communicators.

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.