Media Defence has filed an intervention before the Constitutional Court of Colombia, in the case of Marcos Evangelista Pinto v. National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE). The case concerns a mural painted by MOVICE activists in Bogotá, which referred to the magnitude of extrajudicial killings carried out by the Colombian Army from 2000 – 2010. The mural featured pictures and names of high-ranking officers, including the army’s Chief Commander, and the question “Who gave the order?”. The army quickly showed up and painted over the mural. MOVICE then publicised this act of censorship and was sued by one of the commanders pictured in the mural.
The case raises important questions around the protection of the right to freedom of expression of journalists and organisations who act in defence of the public interest, as well as the applicable international standards for the balance between this right and the honour or reputation of high-ranking public officials accused of the commission of crimes whilst in office in a democratic society.
The intervention draws on international and comparative legal standards to examine the following points:
- The context of extrajudicial executions of innocent civilians by members of the Colombian army known as “false positives”;
- The right to freedom of expression related to matters of public interest;
- The balancing between the rights to reputation and freedom of expression in matters of public interest;
- The protection of public interest speech and the chilling effect.
Colombia currently ranks at 130 out of 180 in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. Journalists in the country are often subject to state harassment and violence. The government has also been known to use force on journalists and peaceful protesters.
The intervention can be found here.
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