Colombia blocking journalist visas in ongoing assault on press freedom

Colombia’s foreign ministry is seeking to block migrant visas for foreign journalists in its latest attempt to restrict the freedoms of the press and expression.

In an email, the Foreign Ministry told journalist Brendan Corrigan that “applying the current norms, the immigrant visa as freelancer is discarded for the profession of journalists.”

Migratory regulations do not discard visas for freelance journalists and the Foreign Ministry used its discretionary faculty, which allows authorities to refuse entry to suspected terrorists or pedophiles, for example, to deny the journalist’s visa extension.

Corrigan, who has been blogging for newspaper El Tiempo for years and does a podcast for weekly Semana, is the latest of many journalists who have been unable to either extend of obtain their visa.

According to the director of press freedom foundation FLIP, Jonathan Bock, “we have a total of nine cases of journalists reporting problems with their visas.”

Colombia Reports talked to another three journalists, two of whom were denied visas for reasons unknown to them.

A third was able to obtain a journalist visa after 10 months as she was made to believe she needed to validate a journalism degree, a requisite that doesn’t apply to journalists as it is unconstitutional, according to the FLIP.

For obvious reasons, an oncologist needs a degree in oncology in order to work in Colombia or anywhere in the world. A journalist, however, can study Economy or Latin American studies and become a journalist, a right that is protected by the freedoms of expression and the press.

Following an investigation by this website and The Bogota Post in 2018, the Foreign Ministry was forced to admit to FLIP that the requirement to have a journalism diploma was inapplicable after the press freedom foundation said this was unconstitutional.

How Colombia is preventing you from knowing the truth about the country

Notwithstanding, one journalist told Colombia Reports on Tuesday that the Foreign Ministry asked him to upload a journalism diploma when applying for a visa extension online.

“They told me that my degree had to be in the profession I wanted to carry out in Colombia as a freelancer,” another journalist told this website.

This reporter has been unable to return to Colombia where she worked for more than five years.

An American journalist who has been working in Colombia for years is forced to leave the country on Thursday due to visa issues.

Another reporter was refused a journalist visa, but was able to enter Colombia because he owns real estate, and ended up being profiled by the National Army for his work as a journalist.

Colombia must reveal full list of journalists and other ‘military targets’

With the exception of Corrigan, all journalists Colombia Reports talked to wished to remain anonymous citing fears of retaliation by the government.

Colombia Reports has informed FLIP about the undocumented irregularities and informed Congress about the apparent abuse of power to prevent foreign journalists from reporting on what happens in the country.

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