We congratulate Mr. Hollman Morris on his appointment as director of Canal Capital. Mr. Morris is an investigative journalist who has reported extensively on the human costs of the internal armed conflict in Colombia, most notably through his television program Contravía. His reports have exposed abuses on the civilian population by all armed actors, including paramilitaries, guerrillas and members of the armed forces. His efforts have also shed light on how democratic institutions and freedom of expression have been undermined by senseless violence and failed public policies. Mr. Morris’ appointment as Canal Capital director by the mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro, demonstrates a commitment by Colombian authorities to promote freedom of expression and provide more visibility to abuses that often go unnoticed. His return to Bogota as director of Canal Capital provides hope for the voiceless.
Mr. Morris has won domestic and international praise for his work. He won the 2007 Human Rights Watch Human Rights Defender Award, the 2005 Hellman/Hammet grant, the 2010 Chavkin Journalism Prize, and the 2011 Nuremberg International Human Rights Award. He has also been awarded with prestigious fellowships such as the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 2010 and the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy in 2011.
Unfortunately, Mr. Morris’ work has put his family, his colleagues, and himself at great risk. Mr. Morris and his team at Contravía have received countless death threats for exposing grave human rights violations in Colombia. His work has also put him at odds with high-level government officials who have publicly attempted to discredit him, thereby elevating his security concerns. Mr. Morris, his family, and colleagues at Contravía were victims of illegal wire-tapping and surveillance activities carried out by the Colombian government’s intelligence agency. The use of violence and intimidation to curtail Mr. Morris’ work has forced him into exile on several occasions.
While Mr. Morris’ return to Colombia as director of Canal Capital is a felicitous occasion, it is also accompanied by a serious concern for the safety of Mr. Morris, his family, and his colleagues. We sincerely hope that the Colombian government will provide Mr. Morris with adequate and appropriate protection measures. We also hope that the international community will provide him with the necessary support to carry out his important work while ensuring his personal safety. Finally, we express our hope that all journalists in Colombia are able to safely carry out their daily work, essential to the functioning of a democratic society.
Organizations Supporting this Statement:
WashingtonOffice on Latin America (WOLA)
Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF)
US Office on Colombia
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
Witness for Peace
ChicagoReligious Leadership Network on Latin America
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Black Communities’ Process (PCN) International Working Group
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
United Steel Workers, AFL-CIO (USW)
U.S.Labor Education in the Americas Project
TexasFair Trade Coalition
Latin American/Caribbean Committee of the Loretto Community
Movement for Peace in Colombia
"Open Voice" Project
Disciples Justice Action Network