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Thu May 13, 2021, 03:44 AM

CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering mass protests in Colombia

May 12, 2021 4:22 PM EDT

Violent and deadly protests have flared in urban centers across Colombia since April 28, 2021, including Bogotá, the capital, as well as Cali, Medellín, Pereira, Bucaramanga, Ibagué, Zipaquirá, and Buenaventura, according to news reports. Initially sparked by President Iván Duque’s proposed tax reforms–which were later dropped–protests have since morphed into a wider movement against poverty, inequality, and perceived corruption, in turn fueled by anger over police brutality and frustration over officials’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Guardian.

The United Nations has accused the security forces of using excessive force against civilians, resulting in dozens of deaths along with hundreds of injuries and arrests, according to Human Rights Watch. Tensions remain high, particularly in the city of Cali, where Duque has vowed to send more troops after clashes between protesters and armed civilians, as reported by Deutsche Welle.

Between April 28 and May 7, the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) documented at least 115 incidents involving journalists covering the protests, including robberies, harassment, and injuries; nearly half of the violations were allegedly committed by the National Police and its Mobile Anti-Riot Squad, or ESMAD.

Physical safety considerations

Media workers should anticipate and be prepared for significant levels of violence on the ground, which could come from the security forces (such as ESMAD), armed civilian groups/vigilantes, and/or protesters. Dangers may include (but are not limited to) the use of the following:

  • Water cannons
  • Flash/stun grenades
  • Tear gas (including injury from tear gas canisters)
  • Rubber bullets
  • Live ammunition (from both the police and armed civilians)
  • Bean bag rounds
  • Beatings with police batons/truncheons and riot shields
  • Projectiles (such as rocks and molotov cocktails)
  • Vehicle ramming of crowds
  • Sexual assault

    More:
    https://cpj.org/2021/05/cpj-safety-advisory-covering-mass-protests-in-colombia/
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