The Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP) is a nongovernmental organization that defends freedom of expression and promotes a culture in which residents of Colombia can be informed. Under this mandate, FLIP supports journalists who are at risk of violence, victims of judicial harassment, or face unjustified obstacles to accessing public information. In addition, it promotes and participates in spaces to strengthen press freedom, in dialogue with the relevant state entities, and provides training on freedom of expression, access to public information, and how journalists can protect themselves.
Viviana Yanguma, social communicator and journalist, currently coordinator of FLIP’s protection initiatives. She has experience in creating and updating the documentation process and monitoring violations of press freedom, database consolidation and data analysis, and training journalists on how to protect themselves.
FLIP is a nongovernmental organization that defends freedom of expression and promotes a culture in which residents of Colombia can be informed. In recent years, FLIP has strengthened scrutiny over and carried out more investigations on freedom of expression related to the use of official advertising, impact of public radio on democracy, cybersecurity, online surveillance, disinformation, and violence. It has also strengthened its processes for monitoring and documenting violations of press freedom and has worked on advocacy and visibility strategies to protect journalists. It has also developed a more comprehensive vision of protecting journalists, working on manuals, guides, training, and other tools with information and recommendations for digital, physical, and legal safety and emotional self-care.
The two biggest challenges for freedom of expression in Colombia are the historical violence our country has experienced and the current political polarization.
Yes, the violence has seriously impacted press coverage and resulted in journalists facing threats, harassment, kidnappings, and murder. This has resulted in self-censorship and silence, as well as a press in need of protection to guarantee its safety and integrity. In addition to this, political polarization and a lack of public support from leaders, officials, and public servants for the press have created a tremendously hostile environment for journalists, who end up being singled out, stigmatized, and even harmed for their editorial coverage or simply issuing information or opinions.
In Colombia, public information must be available to citizens through government agencies’ websites. When this does not happen, citizens have the right to make petitions in order to access public information. However, because agencies usually do not respond to these petitions or do so inadequately, the right of access to public information has the highest rate of lawsuits due to noncompliance. There are two important factors here: the first is officials’ lack of knowledge about their responsibilities regarding the right of petition and the second is excess bureaucracy.
The defense of freedom of expression in Colombia has had a complex history due to violence, specifically in the 1980s and 90s, in which deadly violence against the press required a highly organized response. A few organizations emerged during that time to defend freedom of expression, such as the Fundación Nuevo Periodismos Iberoamericano (now Fundación Gabo), FLIP, and the Corporación Medios para la Paz, which worked to train journalists in the country to cover the armed conflict and build peace. Some of these organizations, unfortunately, no longer exist, but new ones have also emerged. This organizational response and networking have been some of the most important actors in the face of Colombia’s national struggle for freedom of expression. And in the current context of Latin America, these should be part of the foundation of any work to protect freedom of expression.
FLIP’s experience in a country like Colombia can provide lessons for other organizations that are beginning to face similar difficulties. Likewise, FLIP’s growth in different areas – such as protection, investigations, and promotion of journalism – can be very valuable for the members of Voces del Sur.
Published on June 27, 2023.