Public TV station rejects Colombian councilman's request for a list of gay employees

The director of the public television channel in Bogotá, Colombia, refused to hand over a list of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersexual (LGBTI) employees requested by a city councilman, reported Caracol Radio. Hollman Morris, director of Canal Capital, said, "my ethics and principles will not permit me to ask my employees or any official that works with me what their sexual orientation is."

The controversy started when councilman Marco Fidel Ramírez requested a list of and the resumes of homosexual employees at the broadcaster on Oct. 26, reported the magazine Semana. In an e-mail sent to several journalistic organizations, Morris said that Ramírez, also a pastor, had sent the channel more than 130 questions in the last several months asking for salaries, contractual links and information in particular about the technical and journalistic team for "El Sofa" (The Couch), perhaps the first LBGT production in Latin America, according to Morris.

Since last August, the official has expressed his discomfort with the channel over the "disproportionate" privilege that the current government in Bogotá, the capital, has shown the LGBT community, reported the newspaper El Espectador. The councilman said his petition is related to an exercise in political control, accusing the channel of promoting an LGBT agenda in the city, reported Semana.

"While the fringe has launched three programs dedicated to the LGBTI community, they have not given minute to the other diverse communities. There is no right," said the councilman, according to the magazine.

In his letter, Morris said that the programs oriented toward themes of sexual education, gender and the LGBTI community are part of a series of "specialized programs that serve as platform for analysis" of other topics, including the environment, peace and international relations.

Morris considered Ramírez's arguments about political control and the exclusion of certain populations seek to attack the channel after "revealing grave human rights violations" and landing several "important opinion blows" during the last two months. For example, the channel obtained declarations from Salvatore Mancusco, the ex-leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia paramilitary organization, in which he claims he met with former-Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

"Nevertheless," Morris said, "and outside my personal opinions, the questions are serious and discriminatory attacks on the LGBT community and attack the fundamental right to free development and personality."

The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP in Spanish) demonstrated its concern over the petition, which it believes could stigmatize journalists and the spaces of communication for the community, according to an official statement. FLIP asserted there was a difference between matters for a democratic debate and those that are part of person's intimate sphere, like their sexual orientation.

The Colombian Federation of Journalists joined FLIP in denouncing the move, saying, "prejudice based on a person's sexual orientation creates inequalities that damage social coexistence," the group wrote on its website.

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.