Journalists call on U.S. to reverse visa denial for Colombian journalist and Nieman Fellow Hollman Morris

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has started a letter-writing campaign, asking the U.S. government to reverse its denial of a visa to Colombian television journalist Hollman Morris.

The U.S. State Department said Morris, who was selected as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, is permanently ineligible for a visa under the "terrorist activities" section of the U.S. Patriot Act.

“It’s quite disturbing, indeed, especially in light of the fact that Mr. Morris’s work has been praised by US State Department officials,’’ said Michele Salcedo, NAHJ president, as quoted in the Boston Globe. “Our government in the past has seen fit to acknowledge his very strong journalistic work, but yet we have denied his visa.’’

The Atlantic, which posted a video about Morris produced for the organization Human Rights Watch, questioned, "What kind of message is the Obama administration sending? Work for human rights and you are not welcome here?"

Through his award-winning television program Contravía (loosely translated as "against traffic," or "the wrong way"), Morris has criticized Colombia's armed conflict, fighting on behalf of the victims and voiceless, which has resulted in him being the target of death threats and a campaign to discredit him.

El Nuevo Herald published an interview with Morris, wherein the journalist lamented that the United States was preventing him from participating in the prestigious Nieman fellowship program, having fallen for the "false and defamatory" speech of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who has accused Morris of having ties to the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

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.