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The kidnapping, torture, and sexual violence against journalist Jineth Bedoya, 17 years in impunity

Jineth Bedoya and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton during a ceremony honouring women and their role in peace building efforts in Washington, 31 March 2017
Jineth Bedoya and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton during a ceremony honouring women and their role in peace building efforts in Washington, 31 March 2017

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Today, 25 May, marks 17 years since Jineth Bedoya Lima fell victim to a series of grave acts.

Despite the many years that have passed, criminal proceedings have advanced slowly, coming up against a negligent judicial system and a state without the political will to investigate and sanction those responsible for these crimes. For example, to date only two people, Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco and Mario Jaimes Mejía, have been convicted for crimes against Bedoya, which were secured because they both plead guilty to some of the charges against them.

This situation shows the lack of interest authorities have had in seeking effective justice for her case, leading to re-victimization and poor knowledge of Bedoya's rights as a victim of armed conflict.

Within this bleak scenario, it is worth highlighting the courage with which Bedoya has faced these events. She has not given up and continues to fight, proven through her journalistic work for the newspaper El Tiempo, as well as the multiple campaigns she has led to raise awareness of women who have been sexually assaulted, with the goal of restoring their dignity.

As a result of these efforts, in 2014, 25 May became the National Day of Dignity for Victims of Sexual Violence, which commemorates the fight and resistance that women exercise not only to avoid being victims of sexual violence but also to attain effective justice for existing cases of such abuse.

The FLIP is asking the State to take necessary measures to expedite proceedings and punish those responsible for these crimes. It calls for these cases of assault against female journalists to be dealt with by taking into consideration the issue of gender, so that the fact that the victims are women is not overlooked as one of the motives behind these incidents.

The Inter-American System of Human Rights has stated, via the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, that "in cases of violence against female journalists, the States have, in addition to the generic obligations, a reinforced obligation to act with due diligence based on existing provisions on women's rights, such as those established at the Belém do Pará Convention." They add, "[t]he States must adopt measures for protection for specific cases in which certain female journalists run an especially high risk of becoming victims of violence, taking into account the various forms of discrimination based on other related grounds, such as their race, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation, among others."

They conclude, saying that, "[i]t is also essential that the authorities responsible for providing protection and carrying out investigations be properly trained on gender issues to avoid discriminatory stereotyping when assessing the credibility of complaints, victim-shaming, justifying the acts based on attitude or behavior, questioning their honor based on their sentimental relationships, or using sexist vocabulary."

According to FLIP records, between 2006 and 2016 at least 191 female journalists were victims of assault on the job. These incidents include, among others, threats, stigmatization, attacks, obstruction of their work, and sexual violence. Aggressors include guerrilla groups, paramilitary groups, state and private individuals.

Lastly, the Rapporteur also indicated that acts of violence against journalists have a triple-fold effect: "they violate the right of the victims to express and share their ideas, opinions, and information, they generate an intimidating and silencing effect on their peers, and they violate the rights of people and societies to seek and receive information and ideas of any sort." Therefore, according to this body, States have an obligation to prevent, protect, and procure justice. The case of Jineth Bedoya is a clear example of the failure on part of the State to fulfill said obligation, making it necessary for this case to set a precedent for institutions to act and reclaim their responsibility in preventing repeated assaults on freedom of the press.


BACKGROUND

On 25 May 2000, journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, who, at the time, was working for El Espectador newspaper, was the victim of rape, torture, and kidnapping after visiting La Modelo de Bogotá prison to interview head paramilitary officer Mario Jaimes, also known as El Panadero.

Three years later, the reporter was kidnapped again, this time by the FARC in Caño Jabón, Meta. By that time, Bedoya was following up on the state of public order in the municipality, following a mass kidnapping perpetrated by the guerrilla group in 2002.

As a result of these incidents, Bedoya started the Now is not the time to remain silent campaign in 2009, which seeks to ensure that women who are victims of sexual violence report their abusers and make their cases known with the hope of regaining their dignity. These campaigns, as well as other initiatives led by the reporter to promote forgiveness and reconciliation, have put her at greater risk, given the increasing number of threats she has received in the past 17 years.

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