Reporters Without Borders

Interior Ministry protection programme for journalists also used for "close-quarters spying"

Interior Ministry protection programme for journalists also used for "close-quarters spying"

Published on Friday 30 October 2009.
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Journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, who is under an interior ministry protection programme for journalists, has told Reporters Without Borders of harassment and intimidation by the intelligence services, who obtained information about her from her alleged protectors.

Duque, of Radio Nizkor, is about to present a file to the authorities exposing the persecution she has suffered since 2001 at the hands of the Department of Administrative Security Department (DAS). Some evidence is already in the hands of the office of the Public Prosecutor.

Several individuals attempted to get into her home, when she was absent on 16 October, although her brother, who was in the apartment at the time, managed to deter them.

The intruders left the apartment but remained in the building and can be seen on security cameras talking on mobile phones. The building’s caretaker, who was tipped off by the journalist’s brother, did not however intervene and let them out of the building without questioning them or informing anyone and they left in four cars waiting outside.

The behaviour of the intruders makes it hard to imagine it was an attempted theft. The day of the incident, the journalist’s telephone was blocked between 12am and 7pm and two of the building’s 20 security cameras were not working.

Added to this string of “coincidences” was a series of suspicious phone calls made to her family wanting to know where the journalist was. Duque has also said that she has been regularly followed since July.

“Knowing the past history of the DAS in spying on journalists and the media, which we have several times condemned, it is hardly surprising, albeit outrageous, that the journalists’ protection programme should itself be infiltrated by the intelligence services”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“After the “chuzadas” (dirty war) scandal, this case is even more devastating for the presidency. Sooner or later President Alvaro Uribe will have to take responsibility for the abuses that are directly endangering the lives of journalists, when he should, on the contrary, protect them”, it added.

The journalist on 23 October handed a letter to the interior ministry protection programme, in the presence of a representative from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for a directive to outlaw spying and discrimination against journalists working as columnists and commentators.

She also made a series of practical demands in relation to her safety. She is now refusing to be escorted, given that these former bodyguards were those who apparently revealed information to the intelligence services between 2006 and 2007.

The journalist also disclosed that before she was protected by bodyguards, the DAS had been tapping her phone calls and monitoring her emails, had filmed her while she was travelling, took photos of her daughter, all in a threatening context for the profession - condemned by Reporters Without Borders in 2004.

Duque has also said that she has evidence that a charge of “insult and slander” that was pending against her for five years, pressed by the ex deputy director of the DAS, Emiro Rojas, was part of the secret services’ persecution strategy against her.

Duque has however decided to keep her protection. “I have a duty to expose what has happened, but I will stay in the programme because the state has the duty to protect me”, she told Reporters Without Borders.

After leaving the protection programme in April 2008, she rejoined it after the constitutional court ordered the interior ministry to guarantee her safety and the DAS to hand over illegally obtained information.

Reporters Without Borders said it hoped the involvement of the UN, sought by Duque, would finally lead to a thorough and impartial investigation of the actions of the DAS.

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