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Jineth Bedoya Lima, Golden Pen of Freedom Laureate

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Jineth Bedoya Lima, Golden Pen of Freedom Laureate

Reporting on the armed conflict in her native Colombia as well as drug trafficking and gender issues have nourished Jineth Bedoya Lima’s journalistic work over the past two decades. Currently a deputy editor for Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper as well as an internationally recognized speaker, she is also one of the leading voices to denounce sexual violence against women.

Bedoya’s  professional path has been largely influenced by her personal experiences on the job. On 25 May 2000, she went to La Modelo prison on assignment for El Espectador to investigate alleged arms sales between paramilitaries and state officials. While there, she was kidnapped, tortured and sexually assaulted by three paramilitaries. During the attack, one perpetrator told her, “Pay attention. We are sending a message to the press in Colombia.”

In 2003, while working for El Tiempo, she was kidnapped again by the FARC, who held her for five days.

Bedoya has since become a leading advocate in the fight against impunity and for the rights of women affected by Colombia’s political violence. In 2009, she launched the campaign “No Es Hora De Callar” (It is not time to be silent) to denounce the habitual and systematic impunity in cases of sexual violence within Colombia’s internal war.

In 2012, her efforts were recognized when it was announced by Colombia Public Prosecutor’s Office that her torture and sexual assault constituted a crime against humanity. Two years later, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos designated 25 May, the anniversary of the attacks on Bedoya, as a “national day of dignity” for victims of sexual violence during the decades-long civil conflict.

Colombia continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the western hemisphere, with media workers frequent targets of attacks, abduction, threats and murder. In 2020, Reporters without Borders (RSF) ranked Colombia 130 in their World Press Freedom Index.

The country’s on-going conflict between the national government, far-right paramilitary groups and far-left guerrilla organizations such as FARC and the ELN have had disastrous effects on the media’s ability to produce independent news. Rebel groups continue to work to silence community media and self-censorship remains common among journalists in order to avoid harassment.

But Bedoya has always refused to be silent, even in the face of harassment, kidnapping and sexual assault. As a result, Bedoya has been given numerous awards during her career as an ode to her bravery.

In the year following her 2000 kidnapping, Bedoya was awarded the CJFE International Press Freedom Award, sponsored by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) in 2001.

Bedoya was a nominee for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the defence of women’s rights as a result of her broad campaign against gender violence and impunity in Colombia. That same year, she received the Premio Nacional al Mérito Periodístico (National Award of Journalistic Merit) for her more than 20 years of professional commitment.

And in August 2019, Bedoya was awarded the Press Freedom Grand Prix by the Inter-American Press Association (SIP), in an effort to honour her struggle and raise awareness about the risks that many women journalists face.

That same year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) confirmed Bedoya as a victim and declared the Colombian state responsible for the acts committed against her nearly two decades before. Bedoya has thus become the first victim to bring sexual violence committed in Colombia to an international tribunal, when the IACHR decided to submit Bedoya’s case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in July 2019.

“For the first time, Colombia is going to be tried for crimes of sexual violence in the context of an armed conflict, an act that is a war crime and against humanity,” said Bedoya. “A very large door opens for justice in the international courts.”

In April, just months before receiving the Golden Pen of Freedom, Bedoya was awarded the 2020 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, an annual award that recognizes an outstanding contribution to the defence or promotion of press freedom and coincides with World Press Freedom Day.

Bedoya says her struggle for justice – her own as well as for women around the world who have suffered sexual violence – continues onwards. She is currently the regional leader for the #MiVozCuenta (My Voice Counts) initiative, which works to denounce the sexual exploitation of girls and adolescents. The Golden Pen award is, thus, a testament to her dedication to gender equality but also her fight for press freedom in Colombia.

“More than an honour, this award is a big responsibility,” says Bedoya. “It’s a responsibility to work towards press freedom for all journalists on a global level in a more determined and dedicated way.”

Awards:

  • 2020 – UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Prize
  • 2019 – Press Freedom Grand Prix by the Inter-American Press Association (SIP)
  • 2016 – Premio Nacional al Mérito Periodístico
  • 2001 – The Courage in Journalism Award of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)
  • 2000 – The CJFE International Press Freedom Award, sponsored by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2020-09-14 17:55

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