The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the arbitrary detentions of numerous Colombian journalists covering the Bogota protests.
Following the events of September 8, when lawyer Javier Ordoñez was tasered and murdered by police officers after violating lockdown measures, hundreds of citizens have taken to the streets of Bogota to protest against police brutality. Since the protests started on September 9, at least 13 demonstrators have been killed and 400 injured amidst police clashes.
Journalists have not been immune to such assaults at the hands of Colombia’s National Police. Jonathan Bock, Executive Deputy Director of the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), told IPI that “since the start of the protests, FLIP has documented at least 24 cases of press freedom violations, including 12 physical assaults, 4 illegal detentions, 3 instances of threats, 1 attack on infrastructure, 3 obstructions, and 1 act of sexual violence”.
“The assault on journalists and their detention for doing their job is a gross violation of press freedom”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “Disciplinary action should be initiated against police officers who assaulted reporters, and the government should ensure that such incidents do not occur again.”
Most recently, 19-year old journalist Diego Andrés Patiño Galindo was physically assaulted by National Police officers while covering the protests. Despite wearing a vest to identify himself as a member of the press, he was beaten and allegedly detained at the Fontibón Police Station. His phone and camera, which he used to film the protests, were confiscated. Galindo, who suffered serious injuries, was released on September 11.
On September 9, in the city of Ibagué, 3 reporters of the La Otra Verdad portal were detained for covering protests in the Santa Helena neighbourhood. They were held for seven hours at the Ibagué Metropolitan Police Station.
On the same day, reporter for the PubliMetro digital newspaper, Juan Pablo Pino, was verbally abused by police officers while covering the protests. Pino said that they threatened to detain and fine him for taking pictures of the protests, as well as confiscate his press card.
The following day, Juan Camilo Gómez, a reporter for De Pasillo, was beaten by two police officers while filming the protests, despite Gómez insisting that he was not protesting but just doing his job.
Bock said that FLIP was not aware of any disciplinary processes being initiated by the government against the police in light of such abuses. “It is necessary to educate Colombia’s police officers and authorities about what press freedom is, how it is exercised, and its importance to the society. A pedagogical approach, which authorities can reproduce in their practices, is essential in diminishing stigmatization of the press”, Bock added.