Jinet Bedoya Lima and Other, Colombia

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the document.


75. In the case of violence committed against journalists or media workers for exercising their right to freedom of expression, the Inter-American case law has explained that the rights to life, humane treatment, and freedom of expression are closely related and that they give rise to positive State obligations. In this regard, the IACHR has recognized that States have an obligation to protect those who are exposed to a special risk by reason of the practice of their profession. The scope of the State’s positive obligation to protect persons who are exposed to a special risk was defined by the Inter-American Court, when it noted that “For a positive obligation to arise, it must be established that the authorities knew or ought to have known at the time of the existence of a real and immediate danger to the life of an identified individual or individuals from the criminal acts of a third party and that they failed to take measures within the scope of their powers which, judged reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that danger.”

84. The Office of the Special Rapporteur has underscored that fulfilling all these obligations involves incorporating a gender perspective to ensure that women journalists are adequately protected and can exercise their right to freedom of expression without undue restrictions. Similarly, the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity reaffirms the importance of giving to these policies and strategies “a gender-sensitive approach.”179 To this end, processes and protocols must explicitly recognize that sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence are specific risk factors to which women journalists are exposed and which deserve specialized approaches.

90. It is clear from the evidence in the case file thatJinethBedoya was the victim of ongoing threats and attacks against her right to life and humane treatment in connection with the practice of journalism prior to her abduction on May 25, 2000, and that these facts were known to the State authorities. The State was aware, through senior officials of the police, military and protection agencies, of the risk that the journalist faced because of her work covering the situation of the National Model Prison. It is an uncontested fact that the journalist reported on alleged human rights violations and arms trafficking in the prison involving actors in the internal armed conflict, common criminals, and State authorities. 

94. The Inter-American Commission notes that neither the DAS, nor the National Police, nor the Protection Unit of the Ministry of the Interior, either in coordination or individually, took timely and appropriate measures to prevent acts of violence and intimidation againstJinethBedoya, in particular to prevent the events of May 25, 2000. On the contrary, in 1999, the Interior Ministry’s Protection Unit denied the victim’s request for protection, and days prior to the kidnapping, the police limited themselves to agreeing with the journalist on negotiation measures with the members of the paramilitary forces. Given the context of lethal violence faced by journalists covering issues of armed conflict in Colombia, the IACHR considers that it was the duty of the national authorities—informed on multiple occasions of the threats against the journalist just before the events of May 25—to act effectively to protect her rights to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty. 

127. The IACHR stresses that discriminatory sociocultural patterns also have an impact on the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of cases of violence against women. In particular, the IACHR has explained that, because of prevailing gender stereotypes, justice authorities tend not to treat cases of violence as a priority and fail to examine evidence that is crucial to the investigation and punishment of the perpetrators. In addition, they give little credibility to the victim’s assertions; they discredit her; they blame her for what happened “because of her manner of dress, her occupation, her sexual conduct, relationship or kinship to the assailant,”233 and provide the victim with inadequate services when she attempts to cooperate in the investigation of the facts.234 In this regard, the Inter-American Court has made clear that “the opening of lines of investigation into the prior social or sexual behavior of victims in cases of gender violence is nothing more than the manifestation of policies or attitudes that are based on gender stereotypes”235 about the socially acceptable roles and behaviors of women in their interpersonal relationships. This is particularly relevant in the case of women journalists, where there is a persistent perception that journalism is not an appropriate profession for women and the threats and risks they experience are trivialized.


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