REGIONS:

Public prosecutor prohibits broadcast of cosmetic surgery exposé, demands television station's files on case

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 25 April 2008, "Séptimo Día", a high-profile public affairs programme broadcast by Caracol national television network, received an order from Prosecutor 287, in Bogotá, not to broadcast a programme scheduled to run two days later, and was asked to turn over its investigative file on the subject of the feature. According to "Séptimo Día" general producer Francisco Bohórquez, that edition of the programme was going to feature an investigative report on a situation involving a beautician who had apparently performed surgical procedures, inappropriately and illegally. The main source for the feature was one of the beautician's former clients, who has had serious health problems as a consequence of the procedures and wanted to draw public attention to her experience.

After receiving the court order, signed by Prosecutor Edna Patricia Cabrera, the managers of both Caracol and "Séptimo Día" opted not to broadcast the feature.

The order, which was issued as part of a criminal investigation of the beautician for personal injuries and medical responsibilities, reads: "You are asked to deliver all of the information obtained by you to this office, in order to clarify the incidents in question.(. . .) Taking into account that the investigation we are engaged in, and the evidence provided for it, are necessary and are confidential, you are ordered to abstain from broadcasting it."

"Séptimo Día" director Manuel Teodoro expressed his surprise at the prosecutor's intervention in his programme. He says that the only investigation being conducted of the case is the one his programme has undertaken, and that he's surprised that just before the programme was to be aired, legal proceedings are said to have been initiated by the Prosecutor's Office. "I think this is an attack on the public's right to know that there is a threat to its well-being. It is also a very dangerous precedent," he added.

Article 20 of the Colombian constitution forbids censorship, including restrictions, be they legal or by other actions having a similar effect, imposed prior to the publication or broadcast of any kind of information. The confidentiality of criminal investigations and evidence pertaining to them is not applicable to information obtained through individuals, especially when the information is of general interest and does not constitute legal evidence. Similarly, unpublished or unbroadcast journalistic material is covered under the provisions in the Constitution giving journalists a right to protect their sources.

FLIP condemns Bogotá Prosecutor 287's decision, as it constitutes a violation of press freedom and is contrary to the Colombian Constitution and law as well as international agreements. We ask the Prosecutor General's Office to investigate her decision.

Latest Tweet:

Report of Mexican citizen journalist's murder appears via her own twitter account http://t.co/tuTkEPdwxr | @pressfreedom #Mexico