IAPA calls for justice on 16th anniversary of Colombian journalist’s murder

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  • April 23, 2014

By Claire Edwards*

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) renewed its call for justice on the 16th anniversary of the murder of Colombian journalist Nelson Carvajal. IAPA once again insisted that authorities investigate and prosecute the crime, a request the organization has made since the case was opened in 2001.

Carvajal, 37, was shot seven times and killed on April 16, 1998, just outside of an elementary school where he taught. The journalist also worked for Radio RCN's Radio Sur, in the town of Pitalito of the Huila department. His radio programs covered health services and rural development. They also featured investigative reporting on alleged government corruption.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the suspected gunman is allegedly affiliated to government officials. Eyewitnesses reported that the gunman and accomplice fled the scene on motorcycle.

Claudio Paolillo, the chairman of IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press, lamented that the murder of Carvajal has not been resolved, adding that he feared “this crime would join a list of another six that fall under the statute of limitations in Colombia.”

In Colombia, crimes against journalists committed before the year 2000 must be solved within a 20-year window before they're permanently filed away under the country's statutes of limitations. Colombia's Freedom of the Press Foundation (FLIP) has registered 140 killings of journalists between 1977 and 2012, of which more than 60 have expired.

IAPA submitted the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2002 after an investigation by Colombia’s Rapid Response Unit uncovered many procedural irregularities in the original case.

In 2006 Carvajal’s sister, Gloria Carvajal, received a note slipped under the door of her home with a skull and several graves drawn on it. The note said “keep on investigating and this is how it will end up.” The names of Nelson Carvajal’s twin children appeared on the graves.

The note was received just 15 days after IAPA representatives met with the Colombian government to review the new investigation, a meeting that was supposed to be confidential. Gloria Carvajal left the country in 2006 with Nelson Carvajal’s widow and children after years of systematic intimidation, Proyecto Impunidad said.

IAPA’s concerns about impunity in Colombia are covered in a report that the organization presented in its recent meeting in Barbados. The report stated that 142 crimes against journalists continue to go unpunished in the country.

* Claire Edwards is a student in the class "Journalism in Latin America" at the University of Texas at Austin.       

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.