Friday, August 17, 2018
Journalist and political satirist Jaime Garzón was murdered on his way to work on August 13, 1999. Exactly nineteen years and one day later, the man who ordered his killing was sentenced to thirty years in prison. Others who are suspected of being involved in the murder will possibly follow.

Despite living in a society riddled with violence, the murder of Jaime Garzón was an attempt to silence an incredible journalist loved by millions of Colombians who still remember him deeply. Garzón was loved for his performances and caustic, yet humorous critical interviews with politicians, the military, drugslords and paramilitary alike. Using theatrical characters, among them ‘Heriberto de la Calle’, a humble shoe shiner, he interviewed and exposed people in power and members of the elite during his televised shows. This served as a serious critique on politics as well as an exhaust valve for the enormous tension in society due to violence and conflict. He also served as a mediator between the state, victims, and the country’s armed guerrilla – FARC and ELN- groups.

Impossible to forget

Natalia Merchan of Free Press Unlimited lived in Colombia in those days: “It’s impossible to forget someone like Garzón. As a youngster, I remembered watching his shows on tv. His unique talent and innovative way to educate and inform Colombians about political affairs is something that our country is currently missing. Partial justice has been made but we need to work harder to end impunity against crimes to journalists not only in Colombia but worldwide”

More people involved

By speaking out freely and jokingly against so many people in power, Garzón created an extensive range of enemies. Although the killers were caught almost immediately, the question remained for a long time who was responsible for the murder. The man convicted of organizing the crime, had extensive ties with upper echelons of the military. On the day of the conviction, the prosecution also filed charges against a former army colonel for involvement in the crime.

A significant step

Since 1999, more than 30 journalists have been killed in Colombia. The conviction of the mastermind behind the murder of Jaime Garzón is a significant step in the struggle to end impunity for crimes against journalists in the country. Many cases remain to be solved and prosecuted. In that respect we also welcome the decision in June of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to order the Colombian Government to investigate the murder of another journalist, Nelson Carvajal Carvajal and the threats against nine of his family members who were, for that reason, forced to flee the country.

 

Photo: Jaime Garzón memorial by Chrihern