Home » Colombia celebrates journalist’s day in the midst of the daily struggle to practice the profession

Colombia celebrates journalist’s day in the midst of the daily struggle to practice the profession

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Colombia celebrates journalist’s day in the midst of the daily struggle to practice the profession

BOGOTA —

Every February 9, Colombia celebrates the day of the journalist and the Voice of America spoke with three reporters who have been victims of threats in different regions that have historically been marked by internal armed conflict, and where reporting or giving their opinion continues to make them vulnerable.

According to data from the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (Flip), in 2023 there were 460 cases of attacks against the press that left more than 505 journalists as victims.

Among these attacks, 158 were direct threats. Intimidations not very different that Sandra Buitrago has suffered for six years in the department of Arauca, bordering Venezuela, one of the most turbulent areas of the country due to the presence of the guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissident factions of the extinct FARC guerrilla.

“The threats were due to some articles that were published on the website of the media outlet where I was working at that time. “We discovered a person who demobilized in the 2016 peace process and who abandoned demobilization and joined the FARC dissidents,” he tells Voice of America Sandra Buitrago, journalist in Colombia.

Journalists and smaller local media outlets are the ones who, for the most part, face intimidation and threats from armed groups, local leaders and merchants with dark businesses.

In Cúcuta, Diego de Pablos, for his part, suffered the worst of luck in 2016 when, in the middle of a report for a national news channel where he was the correspondent, the ELN guerrilla kidnapped him for more than seven days.

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“I think it is the worst experience I have had in my life. The treatment at first seemed like it was going to be good, but from the first moment they made us walk, we were intimidated, threatened, they terrified us saying that they hoped the Army would come to kill us, that psychological impact is quite abrupt,” de Pablos tells the VOA.

The acts of violence that these journalists experienced and that many colleagues suffer daily are recorded, above all, in the coverage of public order events, electionssecurity and corruption.

Daniel Muñoz is one of those victims, in his 25 years as a reporter he has been threatened on more than one occasion, the most recent happened to him in 2022 when he was admitted to the dangerous jungle of the Darién Gap to highlight the dangers faced by migrants seeking to reach North America via that route.

“We went into the Darién Gap jungle, we were threatened by the coyotes that dominate and manage that region and, well, the Gulf Clan also threatened us,” Daniel Muñoz tells the Voice of America about his experience. However, he assures that he does not plan to stop reporting.

“It’s scary and scary, you panic, shock, because they call you at any time, because they come to your apartment to look for you late at night, you panic. However, it is more the love for the career and what one feels as a journalist that does not let him abandon his work,” Muñoz highlights.

The South American nation remains one of the most dangerous places to practice this profession in the world. In accordance with Reporters Without BordersIn 2022, Colombia ranked 145th out of 180 countries in the press freedom index.

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For Fabiola León, representative in Colombia of Reporters Without Borders, the biggest problem with freedom of expression continues to occur in rural areas, where they are threatened by territorial conflicts generated by violence between armed groups.

“We continue to have a situation of threats against journalists in the country that is recurrent, that continues and that at times worsens, the majority of threats have to do with information that is being discussed about criminal gangs, drug trafficking and groups armed groups, environmental issues and the relationships of these gangs with political sectors in the region,” León explained to the VOA.

However, despite the risk, this profession remains his reason for living. “I’m not capable of stopping practicing journalism, I don’t think I would ever think about it,” says Sandra. For his part, Pablo affirms that “loving the profession very much is what keeps him and has still kept him practicing journalism.”

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