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Journalist leaves "El Colombiano" daily

(FLIP/IFEX) - In his weekly column on 14 May 2009, journalist Javier Darío Restrepo announced that he would be leaving the Medellín daily "El Colombiano". After 17 years writing for the paper, its management notified him of their decision, saying that is it the outcome of reorganisation of the paper's editorial pages. According to Restrepo, the real reason is that his political views do not coincide with that of the newspaper.

FLIP spoke with Restrepo, who for some time now has been criticising President Álvaro Uribe Vélez's government, expressing his concern over the concentration of power implicit in a second reelection. This position was presented in his penultimate column entitled, "Libertad de discrepar". "It is necessary to understand that just because a person does not agree with the government does not make them a terrorist, nor a FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) accomplice, nor an enemy of the president or his supporters", read the article, in reference to World Press Freedom Day celebrations.

In a conversation with Radio Nacional de Colombia, Felipe Jaramillo, editor of the Opinion page in "El Colombiano", asserted that the reason Restrepo was leaving the paper was because of a regular process of updating the editorial columnists that has been going on for the last three years: "Two years ago we changed 27 columnists; last year, 21 and this year, 12". He added that the paper tries to represent all political views, including those that are opposed to the government.

Restrepo is the author of books on journalism and journalistic ethics and a member of the FLIP executive committee.

FLIP recognises and defends the media's right to select and dismiss journalists, columnists and collaborators, so long as they are following the law. This right is protected by both the right to free expression and the right to information. However, FLIP expresses its concern that these decisions may also have the intention of silencing critical opinions or those that go against the majority view. In the current climate of polarisation and radicalism, Colombian democracy requires more, not less, reflective voices such as that of Restrepo.

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