Attacks and bodyguards: The price of being a Colombian journalist - Lebanon news - أخبار لبنان
Connect with us
[adrotate group="1"]

Middle East News

Attacks and bodyguards: The price of being a Colombian journalist

Caucasia, Colombia – Leiderman Ortiz’s mother, sister, brother and nephew were visiting him in Caucasia in May 2010 when a loud blast went off outside the house where they were asleep. “I jumped out of my bed and started shouting, ‘Stay down, don’t move’,” Ortiz said. “My poor mother was screaming. She was terrified.” Unlike…

Published

on

Attacks and bodyguards: The price of being a Colombian journalist

Caucasia, Colombia – Leiderman Ortiz’s mother, sister, brother and nephew were visiting him in Caucasia in May 2010 when a loud blast went off outside the house where they were asleep.

“I jumped out of my bed and started shouting, ‘Stay down, don’t move’,” Ortiz said.

“My poor mother was screaming. She was terrified.”

Unlike many others who have been targeted by the regular grenade attacks in Caucasia, a small city about 670km north of the Colombian capital Bogota, Ortiz isn’t a criminal. He writes about them. And the 2010 attack was the third of at least five known attempts or suspected attempts on the 45-year-old’s life.

The first occurred in 2009 in Medellin when he was leaving an office and an armed individual was waiting for him. Ortiz saw the individual and called the police. The next year, the 2010 grenade attack occurred. Two days after that attack, another grenade was thrown into his garden. The following year, at least two suspected hitmen were paid to follow Ortiz, but his security team prevented any attacks.

Covering a city that has always been at the heart of Colombia’s conflict and criminal activities is no easy task – and many people would prefer Ortiz was dead.

Ortiz founded the La Verdad del Pueblo, translated as The Truth of the Town, independent newspaper two decades ago with the goal of exposing the crime and corruption that plagues his hometown.

He runs the paper alone, exposing crimes and pictures of high-profile gangsters, stories about polluted rivers and updates on local politics.

The mission of La Verdad del Pueblo is to expose the crime and corruption that exposes Caucasia [Mathew Di Salvo/Al Jazeera]

Threats against reporters are abundant in the country, and Ortiz’s work in one of the most dangerous regions makes him a regular target. He travels with four armed bodyguards, paid for by the Colombian state, which provides protection to individuals under the threat of political violence, and his family now never visits.

“Of course it’s tiring [having the constant protection],” Ortiz said. “But I have to go on.”

Murder rate soared

Born and raised in Caucasia, with a population of 100,000, Ortiz grew up around crime and corruption.

Uncomfortably humid, dusty and loud, Caucasia is the capital of Bajo Cauca, a subregion in the north of the Antioquia department. A key hub of the cocaine trade, Antioquia was home to much of the violence during Colombia’s half-century of war. 

Rich in gold and coca, a key ingredient of cocaine, rural Bajo Cauca has always been a desirable spot for right-wing paramilitaries, leftist rebel groups and drug traffickers to base themselves.

There were 139 murders in Caucasia last year, according to local media, accounting for a little less than half of the total number of homicides that took place across Bajo Cauca.

The violence is so out of control and Colombia’s new president, Ivan Duque, travelled to the area in the first two months of his presidency for an emergency meeting with security forces to analyse the situation.

The landmark 2016 peace deal between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government led to the armed group to putting down their weapons, paving the way for a power struggle between other rebel groups to gain control over Bajo Cauca’s illegal economies – mainly gold and coca.

Many frustrated former members of the FARC, disillusioned with the peace deal, have also rearmed and returned to the areas they once occupied.

The ‘bunker’

Aptly named the ‘bunker’, Ortiz’s modest home, surrounded by shops, sits in the middle of Caucasia. It is equipped with four surveillance cameras, a bulletproof front door and windows and three-metre walls with barbed wire. It is in the bunker where he puts together La Verdad del Pueblo every month. 

The first edition of the paper was released in 1999. Today, about 2,000 copies are circulated around Bajo Cauca each month. It’s also accessible online. A typical edition features corruption in the city hall, the naming and shaming local members of the BACRIM (criminal bands) or politicians involved in child abuse cases.

One of Ortiz’s latest scoops aided police in catching a teenager allegedly involved in the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl.

Leiderman Ortiz works in a room, named the ‘bunker’ [Mathew Di Salvo/Al Jazeera] [Daylife]

According to Ortiz, the citizens of Caucasia trust him more than police – many of whom reportedly have links with the BACRIM – and will regularly provide him with tips, including pictures or addresses of the latest gunman or thief.

“Yes, I feel proud and satisfied they [the people of Caucasia] can reach out to me,” he said. “But it’s also sad that there is so little trust in the authorities.”

Whether Ortiz is chasing a story or shopping, he is always accompanied by his security team and travels in a blacked-out bulletproof 4X4, followed by another car.

Ongoing dangers

The dangers Ortiz faces are common for journalists throughout Colombia, which ranks eighth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Global Impunity Index. The index examines the 14 countries where more than 82 percent of the perpetrators in the murders of 324 journalists have gone unpunished.

Fifty-one journalists have been killed in Colombia since 1992, and 39 of those murders are still unsolved, according to the CPJ.

Despite the 2016 peace deal, threats against journalists have increased, with a string of recent threats against prominent journalists in 2018 following the election of the new president, Ivan Duque, who campaigned on a promise to overhaul the peace deal.

Journalists reporting in the regions once occupied by the FARC are particularly vulnerable and the region of Antioquia has seen the most threats against reporters.

Ortiz travels with four bodyguards everywhere he goes [Mathew Di Salvo/Al Jazeera]

Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) NGO has acknowledged the seriousness of the situation.

“The situation with aggression against the press is getting worse and it’s very worrisome,” said Luisa Fernanda Isaza, coordinator of Defense and Attention to Journalists at the FLIP.

“For some journalists, reporting on the BACRIM is one of the subjects which generates the most self-censorship,” she told Al Jazeera.

She added it is difficult to cover as reporters have been attacked just for mentioning the subject of the BACRIM. 

In April 2018, two Ecuadorian journalists from the daily Quito-based El Comercio newspaper and their driver were kidnapped and killed by a FARC dissident group at the Colombia-Ecuador border while reporting on drug-related violence.

Their tragic story highlights the increasing dangers of reporting in hotly contested regions following the peace deal, areas that often generate the most important stories in the country.

“Unfortunately his [Ortiz’s] situation is far too common in Colombia and throughout the region,” Natalie Southwick, the CPJ’s programme coordinator for Central and South America and the Caribbean, told Al Jazeera.

“We’ve seen journalists reporting in post-accord regions face ongoing threats of violence for continuing to report there. The threat of violence, especially in smaller communities, does tend to lead to self-censorship.”

But reporting in Colombia has been dangerous for decades.

“With or without the presence of guerrillas, it will always be tough,” Ortiz said. 

Last year saw the 19th anniversary of the death of the widely-loved activist, comedian and journalist, Jaime Garzon, who was was shot five times while driving to work in Bogota on August 13, 1999.

A day after the anniversary of his death, a former top official of Colombia’s now-disbanded intelligence agency was sentenced to 30 years in prison for instigating Garzon’s murder.

But for Ortiz, and many others in Colombia, this is merely motivation.

“The truth is, I do it because, first and foremost, I really enjoy the job,” he said.

“It’s a big passion of mine [journalism] and every day I am motivated more and more.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

code

Middle East News

Miss Universe UAE announces 15 of 30 official candidates

The first batch of candidates to compete for the title of Miss Universe UAE have been announced. Fifteen names have so far been released on official social media accounts – Marwa (23, Sharjah), Sara (25, Dubai), Jasmin (22, Abu Dhabi), Dilnoza (23, Dubai), Alma (24, Dubai), Bahar (26, Dubai), Emilia (24, Dubai), Frank (27, Dubai),…

Published

on

By

Miss Universe UAE announces 15 of 30 official candidates

The first batch of candidates to compete for the title of Miss Universe UAE have been announced.
Fifteen names have so far been released on official social media accounts – Marwa (23, Sharjah), Sara (25, Dubai), Jasmin (22, Abu Dhabi), Dilnoza (23, Dubai), Alma (24, Dubai), Bahar (26, Dubai), Emilia (24, Dubai), Frank (27, Dubai), Razan (28, Abu Dhabi) Natalia (24, Dubai), Victoria (26, Dubai), Reem (25, Abu Dhabi), Asher (28, Dubai), Anna (28, Dubai) and Anita (24, Dubai).
pic.twitter.com/4ShjATL77n— missuniverseuae (@missuniverseuae) October 20, 2021
The Miss Universe Organization and Yugen Events announced the historic first-ever Miss Universe UAE on October 7, 2021. The event is set to take place in Dubai.
A few hours after the announcement of the pageant, the Miss Universe website crashed as over 12,000 candidates logged in to apply. The delegation whittled the applications down to 300 and selected its 30 official candidates on Thursday.
Couture Designs by @furneamato @amatoofficialPhotographed by @lucasalvesofficial @studiolucasalvesMakeup by @vimijoshiCreative Inputs @chanelayan#MissUniverseUAE#BreakingStereotypes#UAEToUniverse@josh_yugen #JoshYugen#YugenEvents @yugenpr #Top30 pic.twitter.com/Jl6NXCvrsL— missuniverseuae (@missuniverseuae) October 21, 2021
All women, between the ages of 18 to 28, who had a three-year residency, possessing a valid Emirates ID and passport, were qualified to join.
The 2022 event will be held in Dubai for three hours, where candidates will get the opportunity to showcase their intelligence, style and talent.
#MissUniverseUAE#BreakingStereotypes#UAEToUniverse@josh_yugen #JoshYugen#YugenEvents @yugenpr #Top30 pic.twitter.com/dDSyNzOPL1— missuniverseuae (@missuniverseuae) October 22, 2021
According to an official press release, the swimwear category will be dropped from the event this time “in respect of the UAE’s culture and traditions.”
A charity dinner will formally present the candidates on November 4.
The preliminary rounds will then take place on November 5, where the Top 15 will be chosen. From the semi-finalists will be selected the top five.

Continue Reading

Middle East News

Woman dies after Alec Baldwin fires prop gun on film set

US actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed a cinematographer and wounded the director on a film set in New Mexico, US law enforcement officers said Thursday. The incident happened on the set of “Rust” in the southwestern US state, where Baldwin is playing the lead in a 19th-century western. Halyna Hutchins and…

Published

on

By

Woman dies after Alec Baldwin fires prop gun on film set

US actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed a cinematographer and wounded the director on a film set in New Mexico, US law enforcement officers said Thursday.
The incident happened on the set of “Rust” in the southwestern US state, where Baldwin is playing the lead in a 19th-century western.
Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza “were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin,” the sheriff in Santa Fe said in a statement.
Hutchins, 42, was transported to hospital by helicopter but died of her wounds, while Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance and is receiving treatment.
No charges have been filed over the incident, which is being investigated, with witness interviews ongoing.
A spokesperson from the production told The Hollywood Reporter the “accident” involved the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.
A sheriff’s spokesman told the publication that the director was in “critical condition.”
The incident took place at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, a production location near Santa Fe which is popular with Hollywood filmmakers.
Movie sets usually have stringent rules over the use of prop weapons, but accidents have happened.
Most famously, Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, died during filming of “The Crow” after being shot by a gun that was supposed to fire blanks.
ALSO READ:

Continue Reading

Middle East News

In Iraqi Kurdish city, women gain power without parity

DUBAI: Stepping into India’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is like being instantly transported from the skyscraper-dominated skyline of the Middle East’s commercial capital to the hustle and bustle of South Asia. The pavilion, located in Al-Forsan Crescent in the expo’s Opportunity District, is one of the largest at the event. Designed by CP Kukreja…

Published

on

By

In Iraqi Kurdish city, women gain power without parity

DUBAI: Stepping into India’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is like being instantly transported from the skyscraper-dominated skyline of the Middle East’s commercial capital to the hustle and bustle of South Asia.

The pavilion, located in Al-Forsan Crescent in the expo’s Opportunity District, is one of the largest at the event. Designed by CP Kukreja Architects in Delhi, it features an innovative kinetic facade made up of 600 individual blocks in assorted hues of brown and beige — not entirely unlike the desert landscape outside — arranged in a mosaic of panels, each of which rotates on an axis.

The Indian pavilion’s design represents the country’s dynamism and forward-thinking vision, echoing the theme of an “India on the move.” (Credit: Supplied)

The design is intended to represent India’s dynamism and forward-thinking vision, echoing the theme of an “India on the move;” a country rooted in its rich heritage but also avant-garde and innovative in its approach to technological and economic advances.

The pavilion is also a nod to the nation’s fight against COVID-19 and the various reforms implemented by the government to prepare for what is hoped will be a period of high and accelerated growth as India strives to become a $5 trillion economy.

Combining both its heritage and its ambition, the Indian pavilion features yoga demonstrations alongside displays on its space program. (Credit: Supplied)

“The pavilion takes visitors through the numerous phases of development and the unparalleled growth trajectory that India has experienced in all sectors, ranging from health and wellness, climate change, biodiversity, food agriculture to accomplishments in space,” Aman Puri, the pavilion’s commissioner general and the consul general of India in Dubai, told Arab News.

“We have a wide assortment of festivals and celebrations to offer at the pavilion, which provide our visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime experience to get the … feel of the diverse Indian culture.”

Visitors are greeted warmly as they arrive at the state-of-the-art pavilion, which occupies a 1.2 acre site and showcases the nation’s cultural treasures and technological marvels.

Combining both its heritage and its ambition, the Indian pavilion features yoga demonstrations alongside displays on its space program. (Credit: Supplied)

As they move along a winding pathway they pass by a live yoga display in an area surrounded by greenery, a demonstration of Ayurveda, India’s ancient art of wellness, and a sharply contrasting area dedicated to India’s space program.

Visitors then move up through several levels that offer insights into various aspects of Indian culture, heritage and modern-day achievements. Massive floor-to-ceiling LED screens show images of Indian dancers and traditional ceremonies, and showcase the nation’s successes in the fields of robotics, energy, e-commerce, healthcare, cryptocurrency and blockchain.

A number of conference rooms and meeting spaces will be used to host talks and networking events in the coming months in an attempt to encourage the forging of new international business relationships with India.

Prior to the pandemic, bilateral trade between India and the UAE was worth $60 billion. As business begins to return to normal, the governments of both countries hope to facilitate investments totaling $75 billion in the coming years.

“The expo is an important occasion to exhibit and invite the world to participate in India’s economic growth by utilizing the existing Indian talent base, creating additional employment opportunities, and empowering the secondary and tertiary sectors,” said Puri.

“The plethora of global discussions, business and investment summits will focus on creating synergies and providing opportunities to explore and accelerate trade partnerships.”

Prior to the pandemic, bilateral trade between India and the UAE was worth $60 billion. As business begins to return to normal, the governments of both countries hope to facilitate investments totaling $75 billion in the coming years.

INNUMBERS

8.5 million – Population of overseas Indians in the Gulf states (2018).

(Source: GoI, Ministry of External Affairs)

Noting that India is “a country of start-up unicorns, and with an ecosystem of more than 50,000 recognized start-ups,” Puri said that “the Innovation Hub at the India pavilion will host several leading startups from India. Expo 2020 Dubai will be an excellent platform for these startups to engage with the global market.”

As it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, India has set its sights on becoming a high-tech, $5 trillion economy. (Credit: Supplied)

Among the events the pavilion will host is a World Majlis, which includes a program of talks including: Lessons from Space, on Oct. 19; Cities on the Move, on Nov. 2; and Off the Beaten Path, on Jan. 13.

For those interested in sampling some of India’s heritage, arts and crafts, and cultural treasures, the pavilion features a retail area with shops selling gemstones, textiles and pashminas from Jodhpur, Rajasthan and Jaipur.

And of course there is also a food court offering a wide range of Indian delicacies, along with a fine-dining restaurant, managed by Taj Hotels, where visitors can feast on a selection of the country’s rich culinary offerings.

The pavilion will also offer a packed schedule of indoor and outdoor performances of traditional Indian music and dance. In addition, visitors are invited to take part in festivities such as Diwali, the festival of light, and Holi, the festival of color.

 India’s state-of-the-art pavilion, which occupies a 1.2 acre site, showcases the nation’s cultural treasures alongside its technological marvels. (Credit: Supplied)

There are plans for the pavilion to remain as a permanent space for cultural and business exchange after the expo concludes, a testament to the long-standing relationship between the UAE and India.

About 2.75 million Indian nationals live in the UAE, representing 27 percent of the Gulf state’s population of about 10 million. The majority work in the service industry, which was badly hit by the precautionary lockdown measures during the pandemic. As a result, many Indian expats were forced to return home.

India’s participation at the expo coincides with the Indian government’s Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav initiative, also known as [email protected], a year-long celebration of the upcoming 75th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule.

The Indian pavilion’s design represents the country’s dynamism and forward-thinking vision, echoing the theme of an “India on the move.” (Credit: Supplied)

The Indian consulate has launched a number of special events, in addition to those taking place at the expo, to mark the anniversary, including competitions, documentary screenings and art exhibitions. The consulate is also reportedly planning a joint celebration to coincide with the 50th UAE National Day on Dec. 2, in celebration of the bond of friendship between the nations.

Expo 2020 Dubai is the 35th World Expo. The previous one was in Milan in 2015, and the next is scheduled to take place in 2025 in the Japanese city of Osaka, which also hosted the 1970 World Expo.

People attend the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on September 30, 2021. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo)

The event dates back to 1851 and the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London, the first of what came to be called World Expos. In recent years have been staged every five years in a host city for a period ranging from three to six months.

Since 2013, when Dubai impressed a selection panel in Paris with its bid for the 2020 event, the expo has been one the most talked about and eagerly anticipated events in the UAE.

Organizers say the expo, which was delayed by a year because of the pandemic and finally got underway on Oct. 1 this year, provides a showcase for more than 200 participating entities, including 192 countries, and features 60 events. About 25 million visitors are expected before it closes in April.

______________________

• Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor

Continue Reading
error: Content is protected !!