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Colombia20 December 2002

Arauca: News in danger
Report on freedom of expression in the department of Arauca

A report published today details the threats, restrictions and pressures on the press in the eastern department of Arauca. The latter was recently declared "rehabilitation and consolidation zone" by president Uribe administration.

(GIF) Entitled "Arauca: news in danger," the report describes both the attacks against the press by armed groups outside the law as well as "the army’s constant monitoring of the content of the news carried by the local media." It also makes recommendations to the authorities, armed groups, news media and civil society organisations designed to promote and protect a right that is violated almost daily in Arauca - the right to inform and be informed without any kind of censorship or intimidation.

The report was compiled by a fact-finding mission that went to Arauca on 28-29 November to assess freedom expression. The mission consisted of representatives of Reporters Without Borders, the latin-american organization Press and Society Institute (Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, IPYS), the colombian organizations Press Freedom Foundation (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, FLIP) and Antonio Nariño Project (Proyecto Antonio Nariño) and the rapid response unit of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA).

The mission was prompted by the recent murder of Efraín Varela, the region’s most influential journalist, and by reports from journalists in Arauca that they have been threatened. The fact that three of the department’s municipalities have been declared a rehabilitation zone was an additional reason.

Local journalists said Varela’s murder "radically changed the way journalism is practised in the department." The mission found that since his death, the population of Arauca has been receiving much less news. "When ask to rate the degree of freedom of expression they enjoy in their work on a scale from one (no freedom) to ten (total freedom), journalists in Arauca responded with an average rating of four," concludes the report.

Read the full report.

The report is also available on the following websites:
- (FLIP)
- (IPYS)
- (Proyecto Antonio Nariño)
- (IAPA)

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