Families go to international court to force Colombia to investigate 1991 journalist killings

Relatives of a pair of Colombian journalists who were killed 20 years ago April 24, are appealing to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) after the attorney general announced it would no longer investigate the case, EFE reports.

Journalist Julio Daniel Chaparro and photographer Jorge Enrique Torres for El Espectador newspaper were killed in 1991 while working on a story about a 1988 paramilitary attack, which left 40 dead in the northeastern city of Segovia, Antioquia.

“There were irregularities in the investigation and it was not exhaustive, therefore we are turning to international bodies to find the truth,” said historian Daniel Chaparro, brother of the killed journalist.

Colombia’s main newspapers have written editorials criticizing the prosecutor’s decisions. El Tiempo stressed that while journalist homicides have decreased, “other means of intimidation, like wiretaps, have worsened” and “impunity is the worst message the state could send.”

El Colombiano wrote that the decision to not investigate “confirms that are engaged in a spiral of violence, with a politicized legal system, ruled by threats and intimidation by those who want, as they have for decades, to subject the country to a regime of violence.”

Freedom of expression organizations like Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) recently called on the authorities to classify the killings as crimes against humanity to avoid reaching the statue of limitations, as prosecutors did with respect to the 1986 killing of El Espectador editor Guillermo Cano.

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.