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News > Colombia

Anti-Corruption Bill Caps Press Freedom in Colombia

  • Police officers attack a photojournalist, Colombia, 2021.

    Police officers attack a photojournalist, Colombia, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @baradit

Published 8 December 2021

"Such legal initiatives are typical of authoritarian regimes that sow fear in whistleblowers," the Centre for Law, Justice, and Society Studies stated. 

On Tuesday, Colombia’s Lower House approved an anti-corruption bill whose article 68 establishes penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone found guilty of libel or slander against a public official. This possibility caused harsh criticism in a country where political persecution is common.


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"Such legal initiatives are typical of authoritarian regimes, which curtail press freedom by harassing journalists or people who denounce irregularities committed by their officials," Transparency for Colombia Director Andres Hernandez stressed.

The Center for Law, Justice, and Society Studies (CLJSS) Director Vivian Newman stated that anti-corruption laws must offer guarantees to whistleblowers rather than curtailing their actions by frightening them.

"Many journalistic investigations revealed corruption cases in our country. The Pandora Papers, for instance, exposed the involvement of Colombian officials in tax haven-based businesses,” she stressed, adding that Justice has to reconsider the role of the press in investigating such crimes.

Upon this criticism, lawmakers who initially supported article 68 requested that it be excluded from the bill, which the Senate will approve or reject in the next few hours. 

"Press freedom is an important democratic value. We need activists and professionals to defend it under a fair legal framework," Senator Edward Rodriguez stressed.

If the Senate fails to exclude this article, a complaint could be lodged with the Constitutional Court so that it takes a final decision on the matter.

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