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US Congress and Obama administration urged to examine dark side of Uribe years

(RSF/IFEX) - 28 October 2010 - Radio Nizkor journalist Claudia Julieta Duque is planning to bring a legal action against former President Alvaro Uribe in connection with the illegal phone-tapping, smear campaigns and acts of sabotage carried out against her by the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), Colombia's leading intelligence agency.

Duque will explain her plans at a news conference that Reporters Without Borders is hosting at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. at 7 p.m. today. Hollman Morris, producer of the current affairs programme "Contravía" on Colombia's state-owned Canal Uno TV, who is another victim of DAS dirty tricks, will also take part. Details of the news conference and participants are available here: http://en.rsf.org/october-28th-truth-teller-colombia-26-10-2010,38667.html

The so-called "DASgate" scandal, the subject of a Reporters Without Borders special visit and report in May, is now reaching the highest level of the Colombian state. Former President Uribe, who handed over power to his elected successor in August after completing two four-year terms, is due to be questioned about it by a special congressional commission but he is not facing any criminal charges. To what degree did Uribe participate in the incredible misuse of the intelligence services to target the opponents of his "democratic security" policies? It should be up to the courts to decide.

President Uribe's heavily publicised personal attacks on his critics clearly had a major impact. Branded by the president in person on television, as shown in this video recording made during our visit ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIX796i0eaM ), Canal Uno programme director Daniel Coronell was the target of serious threats and had to spend time in self-imposed exile, as did his two colleagues at today's news conference.

By giving a platform to Duque and Morris, we are obviously intending to maintain all the vigilance necessary to ensure that justice is rendered in one of the biggest domestic spying scandals of recent years, one that involved multiple violations of the right to impart and receive news and information. And by giving them a platform in Washington, we are seeking the attention of a country that is linked to Colombia by a "Plan" of the same name, and by an accord granting the US army seven military bases on Colombian territory.

The degree to which technology and information exchanges between intelligence services facilitated the DAS dirty tricks during this period also remains to be established. And do they still? Barack Obama's promises as a candidate to adapt his foreign policy to human rights imperatives could find room for implementation here. Some members of the U.S. Congress raised human rights issues when Plan Colombia was debated. This kind of cooperation should not be undertaken or renewed without taking account of fundamental freedoms. The United States needs to examine the dark side of the Uribe years.

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that Rodolfo Maya Aricape, an indigenous leader and journalist with Radio Payumat, a community radio station, was murdered on 14 October. When we visited Colombia together with the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), we met with the North Cauca Association of Indigenous Councils (ACIN), to which Radio Payumat is affiliated. Its representatives told us how the local communities, and their journalists, are constantly caught in a trap between, on the one hand, the army and paramilitaries, who accuse them of being "in the pay of the guerrillas" and, on the other, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which accuses them of "collaborating with the state."

Maya was shot dead at his home in front of his family by two unidentified gunmen. According to ACIN and the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP), the Reporters Without Borders partner organization in Colombia, graffiti had branded Maya as a "FARC member" shortly before his death. Colombia's civil war is far from over.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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  • Journalist and indigenous activist assassinated

    Rodolfo Maya Aricape was the secretary of the López Adentro council and also worked for the Payumat radio station, where he reported on the conditions in his community.



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