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Colombia15 May 2009

Former intelligence officials leak list of news media and journalists whose phones were tapped

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for an investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) following a new round of revelations about the spying on journalists and news media by the DAS, an intelligence agency that reports directly to the president’s office. The phone-tap scandal was first exposed by the weekly Semana in February.

“Ever since DAS director Jorge Noguera was fired and jailed and paramilitary infiltration of the intelligence services was exposed in 2005, it has been clear that the phones of journalists - some of them known to be in the government’s sights - were being tapped,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The latest details leaked to the press by former DAS officials reveal the scale of this practice and are damning for the president’s office.”

The press freedom organisation added: “At a time when the possibility of a third term is being mentioned, President Alvaro Uribe must give a public response on this matter instead of trying to hide behind broad denials. A violation of the principles of the American Convention on Human Rights on such a scale requires the IACHR’s involvement.”

According to the latest reports, eight news media and 14 journalists are named in documents that former DAS officials have leaked to Semana and RCN, one of Colombia’s leading broadcasting networks. Capt. Jorge Lagos, a former member of the DAS counter-espionage directorate, says the taps were carried out on the orders of the DAS leadership in coordination with the Casa de Nariño (the presidential palace) and that presidential secretary Bernardo Moreno and presidential adviser José Obdulio Gaviria were among those who received copies of the phone-tap reports.

Daniel Coronell, one of the journalists on the list (see below), has described the scandal as a “Watergate” for the president’s office. The Casa de Nariño denied any involvement on 12 May, blaming “former DAS officials who are trying to discredit the government.”

The journalists named in the list include Jenny Arias and Vicky Dávila of RCN; Yamid Amat and Marilyn López of the public TV station CM&; Fabio Callejas and Darío Arizmendi of privately-owned Caracol Radio; Julio Sánchez Cristo, the head of the privately-owned TV station La W; Daniel Coronell of the public TV station Canal Uno; Norbey Quevedo of the daily El Espectador; Salud Hernández and Edulfo Peña of the daily El Tiempo; Alejandro Santos, the editor of the weekly Semana; and Carlos Lozano, the editor of the weekly Voz.

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