Colombian journalist is intimidated with a hearse

Journalist Cecilia Orozco, director of the news program Noticias Uno, was intimidated by a hearse that followed her for four kilometers in Bogotá, the media outlet and the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) denounced on Monday.

According to the NGO, it was a “message of intimidation”. During the last holiday in March (19-21), Orozco was moving at night with escorts from the National Protection Unit, the state body that safeguards threatened people, when the surveillance took place.

In videos of security cameras revealed by the media – which is characterized by its criticism of the government – a truck is seen passing by followed by a motorcycle with bodyguards and, very close, the hearse.

“At that moment, the police were alerted, who stopped the vehicle and questioned its driver, who stated that he was doing a service in which he had to pick up a corpse and a colleague had told him to follow the (security) scheme” , FLIP explained in a statement.

Noticias Uno said they had consulted the two companies for which the driver supposedly worked, but both denied that they currently had a relationship with the driver. Without revealing his identity, the man worked with one of the companies until December, the newspaper said.

“He did not have a coffin to transport corpses, he did not carry a death certificate, nor a health permit to move a body,” the media reported.

FLIP asked the prosecution to carry out “a diligent investigation” to “find those responsible and the reasons for these events.”

“This intimidation is even more serious if you take into account the attacks suffered by both Noticias Uno and its director, Cecilia Orozco,” he added.

The NGO recapitulated some, such as an order from the prosecutor’s office to inspect the news archives in December 2021. Although the diligence was not finally carried out, the action constitutes a “risk” for the “freedom of the press”, “the sources and the media journalists.

“FLIP also learned that during 2021 Orozco faced four different legal proceedings, which sought to silence the opinions he gave (…) This judicial harassment has had economic, labor and personal impacts on the journalist,” he added.

According to the most recent report from that Colombian NGO, violence against journalists in the country increased in 2021 and left 768 victims of some type of attack. The public force was the biggest aggressor last year.

Since the signing of the peace agreement with the former FARC guerrilla in 2016, eight reporters have been killed, which places Colombia in fourth place among the most dangerous countries to practice the profession in Latin America, behind Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico, according to Reporters Without Borders.

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