Freedom of Expression

Press Release 20/99


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the OAS, Santiago A. Canton, expresses his utmost repudiation of the assassination of Colombian journalist Pablo Emilio Medina. The body of the Garzón TV Channel cameraman was found on December 4 beside a highway between Gigante and Garzón. The 21 year-old journalist was murdered when he was covering an attack by the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) on the town of Gigante.

The Special Rapporteur reiterates to the Colombian authorities his concern for the physical safety of journalists in that country, bearing in mind that six journalists have been assassinated in less than four months. They were, apart from Pablo Emilio Medina, Luis Alberto Rincón and Alberto Sánchez, both of whom worked for Canal Regional de Oriente, killed on November 28; Rodolfo Luis Torres, a Radio Fuentes correspondent, gunned down on October 21; Guzmán Quintero Torres, chief editor of the El Pilón daily newspaper, assassinated on September 16; and Jaime Garzón, a comedian working for Radionet and Caracol Televisión, murdered on August 13.

Murdering journalists is the most brutal of all methods of curtailing freedom of expression in the Americas. With 18 journalists assassinated in 1998, Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world for the practice of journalism. Within the region, Colombia is the country with the largest number of journalists killed.

Furthermore, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reiterated on numerous occasions, actions of this type clearly violate international and humanitarian law. Finally, the Special Rapporteur points out once again that freedom of expression is the cornerstone of the democratic system and that the peace the Colombian people yearn for can be forged through the discussion of ideas and opinions.

Santiago A. Canton
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
Washington, D.C.
December 8, 1999