Friday, July 30, 2010

U.S. Groups Welcome the United States’ Decision to Grant Visa to Hollman Morris

The Center for International Policy, Washington Office on Latin America, Latin America Working Group and U.S. Office on Colombia welcome the U.S. State Department’s decision to reverse their initial denial of a visa to Colombian independent journalist Hollman Morris. Our groups, which have worked with Mr. Morris for years, were greatly disturbed when Morris was denied a visa in July under the terrorist activities section of the Patriot Act. When Mr. Morris’ visa was denied, we joined others in urging U.S. policymakers to change this decision.

Mr. Morris’s work is instrumental in raising awareness regarding the victims of Colombia’s internal armed conflict and their rights to justice. Mr. Morris reports from Colombia’s most conflict-ridden areas and on some of the country’s most controversial and politically sensitive topics. He served a key role in raising global awareness of many human rights abuses, including the 2005 massacre in the San José de Apartadó peace community. Always with a view to reporting from the perspective of those affected by Colombia’s legal and illegal armed groups, corruption and adverse effects of anti-narcotics policies, Mr. Morris’s work sheds light on Colombia’s reality to Colombians and the world.

His courageous independent reporting made him the recipient of prestigious human rights awards. It has also made him the target of political persecution and the recipient of multiple death threats. Mr. Morris was one of the many human rights defenders and government critics who were victimized by Colombia’s Administrative Security Agency (DAS). As per our report Far Worse than Watergate, on the DAS intelligence scandal, Mr. Morris was subjected to illegal surveillance, wiretapping and a defamation campaign.

We thank U.S. policymakers for reversing this decision in favor of Mr. Morris and freedom of expression in Colombia. We also look forward to Morris’s time in the United States as a Neiman Foundation Fellow. It is our hope that Mr. Morris’s time in the United States will enable him to educate and inspire others in the field of investigative and independent journalism. We also hope that in the future he will be able to make his important contributions as a journalist without the fear of physical harm and political persecution.

For more information contact:

Gimena Sanchez, Senior Associate
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
(202) 797-2171; gsanchez@wola.org

Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
(202) 546-7010; lisah@lawg.org

Kelly Nicholls, Executive Director
US Office on Colombia (USOC)
(202) 232-8090; kelly@usofficeoncolombia.org

Abigail Poe, Director of Latin America Security program
Center for International Policy (CIP)
(202) 232-3317; abigail@ciponline.org

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