Monday, November 27, 2006

Colombian government detains critical journalist Fredy Muñoz

BOGOTA: Freddy Muñoz, correspondent in Colombia for the Venezuela-based cable news station Telesur, was detained last night at the Bogotá international airport as he returned from a trip to Caracas. He is now being held at the headquarters of the Administrative Department for Security (DAS, Colombia’s “secret narco-police”).

It has only been in the last few hours that this situation has come to light. Tonight, every Colombian newscast featured Muñoz’ face and the announcement that he was charged with “rebellion and terrorism,” specifically of involvement in two “terrorist attacks” in 2002, in the Caribbean cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla, according to a DAS official quoted by the EFE news agency. This was a clear attack on the independent and critical press by the Colombian government. Being publicly accused of “terrorism” is often an invitation for assassination attempts in Colombia, where armed paramilitary groups rush to take out anyone who can be portrayed as an “insurgent.” At the very least, the Colombian government, in allowing the press to discover the accusations against Muñoz has made a very heavy-handed attempt to discredit an accomplished journalist who has exposed the ugly side of the Colombian and U.S. governments’ war against leftwing rebels.

Muñoz’ work for Telesur has been most notable for his investigations into the problem of forced displacement in the Colombian civil war. Before working for Telesur he was a reporter and editor for several commercial newspapers and televisions shows. A short comment from him was just broadcast on Colombian television, in which he says, “I am neither a terrorist nor a rebel. I would have no time for such things, I have dedicated my life to the work of journalism.”

A protest outside the DAS offices in Bogota has been called for tomorrow at 11 a.m. We’ll keep watching and reporting on this brazen attack against freedom of the press in Colombia.

Article by By Dan Feder

The following is the public communiqué issued by FREDY MUÑOZ from where he is being detained.

Dear colleagues and friends from throughout the world:

Once again, free and critical journalism is attacked by those who insist on subduing this journalism through the use of pressure, fear, lies, and force. On November 19, after having participated in a Telesur narrative audiovisual workshop by Michael Cowgan (a BBC journalist from North America) and Torry Zumbado (an independent cameraman from the war in Iraq), I returned to Colombia and was detained by the Colombian immigration offices, accused of rebellion and terrorism.

Hundreds of journalists from throughout the world, just as myself, have experienced this accusation, after US unilateralism decided to accuse to be terrorists those who oppose it with reason and arguments, and to exalt those who lower their heads, omit the crimes, and submit to it.

Colleagues and friends, from within this enclosed space, I send my message of thanks to all of you who continue to stake life and freedom in this vital profession, and in everyone else who engages with fervent struggle.

It is so ironic that while the judicial officers opened a file on me for charges very removed from the reality of my twelve years as a journalist, Colombian television transmitted a homage on the sacrificed Jaime Garzón, a journalist whose work aroused the rage and intolerance of a stubborn, detrimental authority, entrenched in the institutionality of the country.

The fact is a good journalist only knows how to speak and proclaim the truth; and, in our aggrieved Latin American countries, truth is the sun that reveals and removes men from the shadows.

Colleagues and friends, thank you again for adding my voice to yours. Thank you for insisting so that, even though these frame-ups occur so often, strength does not wane.

Thank you for teaching me not to falter, because performing journalism means making public what is not wanted to be known, everything else is propaganda. (Tayllerand)

With strong embrace,

Fredy Muñoz Altamiranda
Correspondent for Telesur in Colombia
November 20, 2006

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