Friday, January 21

Jineth Bedoya, the voice against sexual violence | Society

Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya.
Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya.Leonardo Munoz

Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya has been trying to silence her for two decades. Before being kidnapped, she and her mother suffered an attack whose perpetrators were never known and which was not enough for the State to offer her protection. In 2000, with Colombia engulfed in a war between drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitary groups, she was kidnapped at the door of the La Modelo prison in Bogotá while waiting to be allowed entry to interview a paramilitary chief as part of an investigation into arms trafficking, disappearances and homicides in Colombian prisons.

They held her for 16 hours and then abandoned her on a road on the outskirts of the city. Nine years later, when she first told publicly that she was tortured and raped, her story became a collective cause against impunity in cases of sexual violence in Colombia. In the 20 years that she has been waiting for justice, she has encouraged women to denounce their attackers with the campaign It is not time to shut up, which she leads in parallel to her work as deputy editor of the Bogota newspaper Time.

Like thousands of women, Bedoya has had to deal with a judicial investigation loaded with gender stereotypes. The first years of the case, the Prosecutor’s Office doubted her version and even hinted at a possible romantic relationship between her and a person held in prison where she was kidnapped. “The search for the truth of what happened has been more painful than the kidnapping itself,” said the journalist, who points out that a mafia of paramilitaries, soldiers, policemen and guerrillas sponsored by businessmen are responsible for her abduction.

Bedoya has had to report to the Prosecutor’s Office up to 12 times what she suffered the day she was kidnapped, reopening the wound once after another. His process, however, has not yet reached the intellectual authors of the attack, which would involve high-ranking police officers. The Colombian judicial system has revictimized her and her file would have been closed with total impunity if in 2012 her case had not been declared a crime against humanity, as it was considered part of a method of war in order to silence those who dared to narrate the Colombian conflict.

The Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP) has been accompanying Bedoya since 2010 so that his complaint could reach an international court given the little progress in Colombia. Andrés Morales, former director of FLIP, recalls that the first time he saw Bedoya, he found her on the verge of tears on the stairs of the Prosecutor’s Office. They had summoned her to ask if she had any news about the investigation. There was no hope, the folder with his name was in a drawer and his progress depended only on what she found out.

Despite the threats, which have never stopped, Bedoya decided to stay in Colombia. From Chocó or the Montes de María —abandoned areas where most of its inhabitants suffered from the armed conflict between the guerrillas and the paramilitaries—, his No es hora de callar campaign has served as a loudspeaker for other survivors of sexual violence. Hundreds of women have already broken the silence encouraged by his example. The date of his abduction, May 25, was declared in 2014 the day for the dignity of victims of sexual violence in Colombia. Bedoya was awarded the Unesco World Press Freedom Prize in 2020.

Crimes against the press

His voice has also been indispensable in pointing out the state’s unwillingness to address crimes against the press. Morales assures that the Bedoya case “has revealed the very serious violation of the rights of women journalists, there is a judicial neglect that goes beyond whether they are given escorts or not.”

On March 23, for the first time, the Colombian State acknowledged and apologized before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I / A Court HR) for its responsibility in the crime and the re-victimization that Bedoya has had to endure during all these years. For the journalist, however, it is not enough. “That partial pardon offered by the Colombian State is one more slap in the face,” she said at a press conference, after the last court hearing, which she has in her hands to answer, after 20 years, to the journalist’s claim for justice.

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