Excmo. Sr. Presidente Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia
Sr. Alfonso Campos Martínez, Director of the National Protection Unit
September 25, 2021
We are writing to demand protection for journalist José Alberto Tejada, director of the media outlet Canal2, whose life is being threatened. His investigative reporting has been crucial in denouncing human rights violations and crimes under international law committed by security forces during the Colombian National Strike. That reporting has made him the target of threats, and his security has been jeopardized at least 14 times in the past three months.
June 4: While the journalist was working in the Paso del Aguante area of Cali (Valle del Cauca Department), a member of the Group of Special Operations (GOES) of the National Police told him: "You are good enough to shoot you."
July 7: The InterChurch Commission for Justice and Peace received credible information about an ongoing plan to kill José Alberto Tejada, including the fact that unidentified men collected 30 million Colombian pesos to pay for his assassination.
July 20: A member of José Alberto Tejada's protection team was shot three times while covering the demonstrations, receiving wounds to his shoulder, thigh, and knee. It is believed that the shooter was an agent of ESMAD (Mobile Anti-riot Squad).
August 7: A team of volunteers who were protecting José Alberto Tejada observed a man on a red motorcycle drawing a gun near his residence at 1:30 a.m. When intercepted by the volunteer security patrol, the motorcyclist fled to a nearby public establishment where several police officers were gathered. When the man arrived, the officers departed.
The targeting of journalists—especially if the police are involved—raises serious issues over press freedom and the ability of the press to hold Colombian authorities to account for the brutal treatment of demonstrators. We therefore strongly urge that you
- conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and grant José Alberto Tejada appropriate protection measures (as he requested on July 9), in strict accordance with his wishes
- instruct officials in your government to stop stigmatizing protesters and suggesting that they are linked to armed rebel groups
- instruct officials in your government to stop stigmatizing journalists (accusing them of spreading “fake news”) who are reporting on popular demonstrations
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker-Martínez, Co-Coordinators