Statutes of limitations expire, adding to impunity in killings of journalists in Colombia

Expiring statutes of limitations for journalists killed in Colombia is adding to the South American country's rampant impunity, according to Periodistas en Español (Journalists in Spanish).

In the past 34 years, 139 journalists have been killed for their work in Colombia, and since 1977, only five sentences have been handed down for the masterminds of the crimes against journalists, according to data from Colombia's Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP in Spanish), highlighted as part of the International Day to End Impunity. And when it comes to threats against journalists or attempted murder, no one has ever been convicted, FLIP said, according to Prensa Latina.

"Impunity is the most perverse invitation to criminals to repeat their crimes," according to Periodistas en Español. "If the crimes and aggressions against reporters and the media are not punished, and on the contrary, continue to increase, how can citizens' right to information be guaranteed?"

Of the killings of journalists prior to 1991, 90 percent remain unsolved -- a problem considering that Colombia has a 30-year statute of limitations for murder. By December 2011, the statute of limitations for 10 cases of journalists killed will expire, FLIP said, contributing to the high levels of impunity -- Colombia is the country with the fifth-highest rate of impunity, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In December 2010, Colombia increased from 20 years to 30 years the statute of limitations for violent crimes, including murder, in cases of journalists and human rights defenders.

According to the Inter American Press Association, among the cases for which the statute of limitations expires this year are the killings of journalists Julio Daniel ChaparroJorge Torres Navas, Carlos Julio Rodríguez, José Libardo Meléndez and Arsenio Hoyos.