Freedom of Expression

Press Release 42/01


The OAS Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Santiago A. Canton, condemns the killing of Colombian journalist Flavio Bedoya. Based on the information received, the journalist was killed on April 27 on a public road by two unknown individuals. Bedoya was a correspondent for the weekly publication Voz in the Tumaco area of Nariño province in Colombia. The fifty-two year old journalist had received death threats after publishing an interview with a member of one of the armed dissident groups in Colombia. The Director of the weekly publication Voz, Carlos Lozano, stated that notification had been provided to the Ministry of Interior and other authorities of these threats.

The Special Rapporteur condemns this crime and urges the Colombian authorities to shed light on the events that occurred and to sanction the perpetrators. The killing of journalists is the most brutal way of restricting freedom of expression. In its recently published annual report, the Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression reported the killing of seven journalists in the Hemisphere, three of whom were Colombian. The Office of the Rapporteur has also received information regarding the killing of other journalists in Colombia. Investigation into these cases is continuing in order to determine whether these killings were related to their profession.

The Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, to which Colombia is a party, stipulates that States have a duty to prevent, investigate, and sanction all violations of rights recognized in the Convention. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has maintained that the failure to investigate fully the killing of a journalist and to impose criminal sanctions on persons who carry out or mastermind these acts is particularly serious because of its impact on society. Impunity with respect to such crimes serves to intimidate not only other journalists, but also citizens in general, since it leads to a fear of reporting violations, abuses, and illicit acts of all kinds.

The Special Rapporteur urges the Colombian State to conduct, as soon as possible, a serious and effective investigation into the killing of journalist Flavio Bedoya. Furthermore, the special Rapporteur urges the Colombian State to make every effort to ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished and to seek mechanisms that grant effective protection to all persons in the mass media, in order to ensure that they can perform their valuable service of providing information to society.

Lastly, the Special Rapporteur notes the provisions of Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression: "the murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the State to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators, and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."

Santiago A. Canton
Special Rapporteur for
Freedom of Expression
May 1, 2001
Washington, D.C.