Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Today is Journalists' Day

In Colombia, journalism has historically been a very hazardous profession. According to a 2008 editorial in El Tiempo, Colombian journalists had been murdered at a rate of about ten per year, and about half of those killings were related to their work. The killings, of course, are only a fraction of the number of journalists who are quieted or driven out of their communities or even from Colombia by threats against them or their families.

By that standard, things haven't changed much. Last year, eight journalists were murdered, according to the Colombian Federation of Journalists, and 189 received threats. The federation's president, Eduardo Marquez, says that many of those threats have come from the government or current- or ex-government employees. In addition, he says, the fact that the government is the biggest single buyer of advertising gives it an undue influence.

Clodomiro Castilla Ospino,
murdered during 2010
Historically in Colombia, leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups (who have often allied themselves with the government and businesses),  and narcotraffickers have all threatened and sometimes even murdered journalists. Seldom are those killings solved.

Still, Marquez says that the new administration of Pres. Juan Manuel Santos has been much more protective of journalists than was the previous administration of Pres. Alvaro Uribe, who sometimes expressed a somewhat paranoid belief that some journalists were working with guerrilla groups.

World-wide, counts of the number of journalists killed varied, as did calculations of whether the number has risen or declined.

Papers and magazines for sale in dowtown Bogotá.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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