I know it's been a while since I last posted anything on this blog, making it somewhat irrelevant, BUT I thought I'd share this urgent story with you, in case you haven't heard about it.
Indeed, as if you needed more evidence of the permanence of Bush Administration policies under the "enlightened" Obama team, here's the latest:
The U.S. government has denied a visa to a prominent Colombian journalist who specializes in conflict and human rights reporting to attend a prestigious fellowship at Harvard University.
Hollman Morris, who produces an independent TV news program called “Contravia,” has been highly critical of ties between illegal far-right militias and allies of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, Washington’s closest ally in Latin America. We have posted a number of his reports on this blog, as well as stories about Morris' role in trying to confront the media darkness that has been prevalent under the eight years of Uribe.
The curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, which has offered the mid-career fellowships since 1938, said last week that a consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota told him Morris was ruled permanently ineligible for a visa under the “Terrorist activities” section of the USA Patriot Act.
This is preposterous, and fails to take into consideration the manipulative and deliberate actions taken under the Uribe government to discredit opposition leaders, elected officials, journalists, trade union leaders and human rights workers. Hollman Morris has been the direct recipient of this vicious and systematic attempt at discrediting his work.
As you can see from this report put out recently by a coalition of Latin American and U.S.-based human rights researchers entitled "Worse Than Watergate," the campaign has been well documented in Colombia, but for some reason has been ignored by the State Department in accepting the Uribe government's claim that Morris is a threat, thus denying his visa.
Morris has been a frequent visitor to the U.S. in the past, and we've organized several public screenings of some of his work in the New York Metropolitan area, including at NYU in 2007. His reports about the Colombian war zone have frequently rubbed the Uribe PR team the wrong way because they consistently challenge the conventional wisdom that "Democratic Security" has worked for the last eight years. Hollman tells the stories the major corporate media in Colombia refuse to tell, and in a way that audiences can relate to.
The report from the Latin American Working Group and Center for International Policy clearly states:
A still-unfolding scandal in Colombia is revealing that the government’s intelligence agency not only spied upon major players in Colombia’s democracy—from Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges to presidential candidates, from journalists and publishers to human rights defenders, from international organizations to U.S. and European human rights groups—but also carried out dirty tricks, and even death threats, to undermine their legitimate, democratic activities...
The tactics outlined in these operations included: framing a journalist by placing him in a fabricated guerrilla video and requesting the suspension of his visa (possibly to the U.S.); conducting sabotage against Constitutional Court judges; making it appear that opposition politicians and nongovernmental leaders had links to illegal armed groups or were engaged in corruption or adultery; stealing passports and ID cards; making threats; using blackmail."
The independent website Colombia Reports reports on documents from April, allegedly from the Colombian security agency, that appear to call for surveillance and harassment of Hollman, including requesting “the suspension of visa.”
We'll keep you posted on this story.