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IFJ Calls on United States to Withdraw "Perverse" Bar on Colombian Journalist

July 15, 2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the United States to lift a travel ban on a leading Colombian journalist who has risked his life to expose terrorism, warning of a "grave injustice" that may increase the dangers facing the reporter.

Hollman Morris, who has armed guards to protect him in Colombia, has been a fearless reporter of terrorism in the country but he has enraged some of Colombia's political leaders by his exposure of both right and left wing links with terrorist groups.

Now, in a bizarre reading of American anti-terrorism law, he has himself been dubbed "a terrorist" and consequently refused a visa to enter the United States where he was due to take up a distinguished Neiman Foundation fellowship with Harvard University last month.

"Anti-terrorism laws are a threat to democracy if they can lead to the perverse and shocking victimisation of genuine human rights defenders like Hollman Morris," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "This ban must be lifted and the rules must be revised to end the negative impact of anti-terrorism rules on legitimate journalism."

Last year the Colombian Attorney General's office recovered files showing that Morris was a target of the Colombian secret service, the DAS, which itself has proven close links with paramilitaries. DAS strategies against Morris and other human rights defenders include personal harassment, intimidation, campaigns to discredit him by linking him to the FARC and to persuade the US to refuse his visa requests.

Outgoing President Uribe accused him of being an ‘ally of terrorism' following his presence at the release of FARC hostages in February 2009. Morris claimed he was there to make a documentary for the History Channel on kidnapping, that he had not known the kidnappers would be released and he never broadcast the film the FARC made him take of the release. An investigation by the Colombian Attorney General's office cleared him of the allegations

It was the Inter American Commission on Human Rights that persuaded the Colombian government to provide Morris with bodyguards following numerous death threats for this work.

The IFJ is calling on its affiliates around the world to write letters of protest to the United States State Department over the ban.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: +32 2 235 2207

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