Defamation Laws In Colombia

On May 25, 2011, The Supreme Court of Colombia ruled on that criminal defamation is constitutional, prompting criticism from freedom of expression advocates.

Articles 313 upto 316 of the Penal Code Colombia allow for fines up to 500,000 pesos and prison terms ranging from one (1) year upto four (4) years for those convicted of libel or slander. In accordance with Article 80, the action for libel or slander shall prescribe which is equal to the maximum penalty prescribed by law, but shall not be less than five (5) years. Prescription will run from the date of the commission of the offense, and from the perpetration of the last act in the tempted or permanent.

Terrorism continues to be a problem in Colombia as it affects press freedom. In July 2011, freelance reporter Luis Eduardo Gómez was killed, likely for his role reporting corruption in Antioquia, and serving as a witness into an investigation into the links between politicians and paramilitary groups.

However, in the year 2010, there were some significant judicial developments which include the dismissal of criminal defamation cases against three prominent journalists: Alfredo Molano and Alejandro Santos of the magazine Semana, and columnist Mauricio Vargas. Yet, a new criminal libel proceeding was launched against columnist Claudia López for accusing former president Ernesto Samper Pizano of murder and influence peddling.

It is noted that media ownership is highly concentrated among groups of private investors, and television is the dominant news medium. There are hundreds of community radio stations in Colombia, although they sometimes receive pressure from the government and armed groups. According to Freedom House, there is a widespread perception that journalists accept bribes in exchange for biased coverage.