The search for the truth is not always welcome for governments that have something to hide. This appears to be the case with the Colombian government which recently denied entry to Alejandra Rajal, a Mexican journalist.
The IWMF has issued the following statement, which we reproduce here in its entirety:
“On October 1, 2019, Mexican journalist Alejandra Rajal was refused entry to Colombia before a reporting trip for the Adelante program of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). The IWMF is deeply troubled by this violation of press freedom and urges the Colombian government to allow journalists to complete their work without interference.
Upon arriving in Colombia, Rajal was removed from the immigration process for questioning. Authorities detained Rajal for about 11 hours, during which his cell phone – containing information about his reporting plans – was taken and searched without his permission. The Colombian authorities then filed unfounded complaints against Rajal, accusing him of entering the country with a lack of resources and of lying about the reasons for entering the country.
In addition to these intimidation tactics, officials searched her belongings, posted threatening videos, restricted her communications, and denied her access to food. Meanwhile, the IWMF was in direct communication with representatives of Migración Colombia, provided documents corroborating Rajal’s statements to the relevant authorities.
Ultimately, Rajal was refused entry to Colombia and returned to Mexico.
Rajal was chosen as one of 12 Outstanding Women Journalists in a highly selective application process for this fully funded reporting trip to Colombia. Currently in its fifth year, the IWMF Adelante Fellowship Program is a well-established initiative in Latin America funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. To date, Adelante has made five reporting trips to Colombia and 23 across Latin America; yet this is the first and only time that a man has faced these consequences.
To intimidate and deny entry to a working journalist is to create trauma, prevent vital reporting and prevent future career opportunities. The 30-year history of the IWMF has included journeys for journalists to some of the most dangerous and difficult places in the world, but Rajal’s experience is unique. This blatant violation of press freedom is deeply concerning and a grim reminder of the continuing challenges women journalists face simply because they seek the truth.