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Colombia7 November 2003

Lower house approves anti-terrorism law that would threaten confidentiality of sources

Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about a proposed anti-terrorism statute that was approved by Colombia’s house of representatives on its sixth reading yesterday. It would allow the army to carry out searches, tap telephones and intercept private correspondence without a judicial warrant for 72 hours in cases of persons suspected of terrorist links.

"If these provisions were to be applied to journalists, they would threaten the confidentiality of sources and cast doubt on the independence of the press," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. The organisation was especially concerned that a lack of any judicial control would open the way to abuses.

For the proposed statute to become law, it must now be approved by the first commission of the senate and then passed in a full session of the senate. Ménard therefore wrote to the chairman of the senate’s first commission, Luis Humberto Gómez, requesting the elimination of these provisions at the next reading.

In yesterday’s session in the lower house, legislators struck out an article which, on the grounds of a person’s right to protect their reputation, would have banned news media from revealing the names of detained persons during the first 72 hours of arrest.



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