Protecting Freedom of the Press in the Americas

“My brother was a good man, a good father, son and brother. He was a thorough journalist who wanted to fight corruption and protect the community’s interests.”

That’s how Judith Carvajal, a teacher from Pitalito, Colombia, started her account before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights on August 22, 2016, in a hearing about her brother’s 1998 murder and the odyssey she and her family have traveled for the last 19 years to obtain truth and justice in the murder of Nelson Carvajal.

In 2015, the litigation and advocacy team of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights joined the Inter-American Press Association in the legal representation of the Carvajal family in their case against the State of Colombia before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, in San José – Costa Rica. This case refers to the 1998 murder of a local journalist in Pitalito, Colombia, to silence his work in denouncing corruption of municipal authorities.

Carvajal’s case is the first one of its kind to be heard by this international human rights tribunal and is an opportunity to establish a higher standard of due diligence duty of States in investigating and prosecuting killings of journalists in recognition of their role in society and the impact violence against journalists can have for freedom of expression more generally.

When Nelson was killed in 1998 it was one of the deadliest years for journalists in Colombia and placed the country at the top of the list of murdered journalists worldwide. Violence against journalists continues to be a challenge in the region and it is exacerbated by systematic impunity. We hope that with the judgment of the Court, which can be expected to be issued in a few months, we will be able to make sure Nelson Carvajal’s death, as well as that of hundreds of journalists around the world, has not been in vain and that we can help push for a better justice system that responds in a timely manner to any threats to the press and holds accountable those that attack it.

Learn more about the Carvajal case here.