Reporters Without Borders is re-releasing its report “ChuzaDAS: Media targeted by intelligence services” following Juan Manuel Santos’ victory in the 20 June presidential election run-off.
Originally released on 27 May, after a joint fact-finding visit with the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), the report looks at the eight-year witch-hunt that the outgoing administration waged against leading critics of President Alvaro Uribe’s “national security” policies. According to the information so far available from the investigation, the targets included 16 journalists from 10 news media.
The revelations are jeopardising the future of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), Colombia’s leading intelligence agency, which appears to have been the architect of a wide range of practices ranging from illegal phone taps (called “chuzadas”), to smear campaigns and “black propaganda” assisted by the most senior government officials, and even murder attempts.
The outrage has intensified even more as result of recent revelations that leading international figures were also spied on, including Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, José Miguel Vivanco, the Chilean director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, and Bogotá-based foreign diplomats.
Uribe’s defence minister for many years, Santos will succeed him as president on 7 August. He campaigned as Uribe’s heir but he must nonetheless now break with the practices that were encouraged and covered up by the government of which he was a senior member.
With senior members of the outgoing administration now the target of prosecutions, the new president must cooperate fully with the judicial system’s investigation of the three major scandals of the past eight years: the “chuzadas” and associated practices, governmental support for the paramilitaries (known as “parapolitics”) and the practice of murdering civilians and dressing their bodies in rebel uniforms (known as “false positives”).
All these practices constituted serious violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the 1991 constitution, including the right to disseminate and receive information.
As we stressed in the conclusions of our report, the reform of the intelligence services cannot and must not be carried out without complete declassification of all the reports and recordings compiled by the DAS and other government agencies involved in the witch-hunt against journalists and human rights activists.
“This scandal shows that the Uribe administration had a wide-ranging plan for neutralising civil society, the opposition and even the judicial system in Colombia,” Radio Nizkor journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, one of the targets of these practices, said during a visit to Paris and Brussels this week.
Shirin Ebadi, who visited Colombia during Uribe’s presidency to meet with organisations representing the families of victims of its civil war, said she was “dismayed” by the revelation that she was one of the targets of the government’s spying and announced that she would refer the matter to an international court.