Courage, journalism and oppression in Colombia

By Simon Barrow
April 9, 2011

Some 23 journalists have been threatened with imprisonments, killings and disappearances in Colombia over the past three months. Fifty-seven have been on a 'hit list' during the past 12 months. There have been 1,400 attacks against media workers. The reason? They are exposing government complicity in massive human rights abuses in the country, and challenging the silence and complicity around this.

The reality of life under a 'security state' has been spelt out in graphic and moving terms by Claudia Julieta Duque at the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) annual delegate meetin in Southport on Saturday 9 April - which is also, as it happens, the 62nd anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany. Acting and speaking for truth and justice is truly a life and death issue.

Last year Claudia told the International Women's Media Foundation (, "“I knew they assassinated journalists. Since the 1980s, there have been 140 journalists killed in Colombia. Clearly I knew it was dangerous, yet I never expected to experience this en carne propia in the flesh. I never thought I would be the victim of so many difficult situations.”

In the two decades since Duque began her career as an investigative reporter, the 49-year-old winner of the 2010 Courage in Journalism Award has been abducted, robbed and threatened with death.

You can read more of her extraordinary story here:

The failure of the US and British governments to challenge the injustice going on in Colombia, and their collusion with a high-ranking culture of armed impugnity, needs to be challenged.

"The UK government is complicit in the murder of trade unionists and journalists in Colombia", if, as is believed, it is funding elements of the security services in [the country], said NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear, shortly after Claudia Julieta Duque spoke.

He was referring to information from court proceedings which Claudia has helped to get released, and which will now be the subject of media and political scrutiny.


(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia, and a member of the NUJ Edinburgh Freelance Branch delegated to the 2011 DM.

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