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FLIP concerned over dismissal of columnist during election period

(FLIP/IFEX) - The directors of the daily "El Tiempo" decided to dismiss columnist Claudia López after she, in her 13 October 2009 column, criticised the manner in which the newspaper had covered a scandal involving a programme run by the Ministry of Agriculture.

In her column, López said that the biased way in which, in her opinion, the newspaper approached the topic could be explained by the fact that a minority partner in the newspaper company, Juan Manuel Santos, is a potential candidate for the presidency and the majority partner, Grupo Planeta (Planet Group), has an interest in the awarding of a licence for a third private television station.

The daily's directors apparently took the columnist's expression of her opinion on the matter as a tacit resignation from her position, and, without notifying López, included their acceptance of her resignation in a note to that effect as a footnote below her column.

The dismissal of the political analyst López is the second incident of this type that has taken place in 2009. The first took place when Javier Darío Restrepo left the "El Colombiano" newspaper.

"El Tiempo" on one hand has said that it viewed López's column as a resignation, but, on the other hand, it admits that readers and columnists have the right to "share, reject or criticise the news coverage" provided by the daily. However, it considers it unacceptable to "question the ethical principles and honour of the journalists who work for the daily." The newspaper's stance can be interpreted as a punishment of yet another critic who is being targetted for her opinions.

FLIP considers ethical debates about media outlets to be beneficial and expresses concern because the cases of both López and Restrepo can be interpreted as an attempt to silence those who can influence public opinion during a very important electoral process.

FLIP believes that the right to express opinions, as well as the rights to inform and be informed are fundamental elements in democratic societies.
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