RSF alarmed by escalation in Colombian president’s attacks against media

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is extremely concerned about Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s verbal attacks in recent weeks against journalists and against the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), RSF’s local partner, and the impact of these attacks on journalism in Colombia.

RSF is having to sound the alarm about the president’s offensive against media professionals just as the Gabo Festival, the biggest journalism event in Latin America, is getting under way in the Colombian capital, Bogotá.

Petro’s attacks began after the Bogotá-based news magazine Cambio published an article by political reporter Maria Jimena Duzán on 23 June in which she raised questions about the possibly fraudulent manner in which the brother of the president’s chief of staff had obtained public contracts. 

The president responded on his X account by branding Duzán’s reporting as “Mossad journalism” and suggesting that she was involved in a disinformation campaign designed to hurt his government. Duzán said she received threats after this post by the president.

Taking up Duzán’s defence, FLIP called on the president to stop vilifying media and journalists whose investigative reporting serves the public interest. Petro reacted by trying to smear FLIP, saying one of its founders – who has had no links with FLIP for more than 20 years – was being investigated for paramilitary activities. This triggered a waves of attacks and hate messages against FLIP.

“The president's recent accusations against the media are extremely serious and put Colombian journalists in danger. The role expected of a statesman is to promote public policies that strengthen media pluralism and diversity and combat disinformation, which was precisely one of the promises Gustavo Petro made during his election campaign. It is also essential that the government should provide journalists with better protection. Three journalists have been murdered since the start of the year, and yet the president has shown no political interest in promoting rapid and robust investigations into these heinous crimes, and preventing their recurrence.

Artur Romeu
Director of RSF’s Latin America bureau

Petro's first two years as president have been marked by tension between him and various media sectors. He has repeatedly denigrated journalism critical of his government, labelling those responsible as “liars” and “scumbags” who are just trying to undermine his administration.

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