Open letter to Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Leahy,

With surprise I have known the communication sent by you to the Government of Colombia, following my questioning to the article by journalist Mr. Nicholas Casey, published in the New York Times.

Making a call to professional ethics and journalistic rigor will never be a threat to the freedom of the press, which is a fundamental, but not an absolute right.  There are limits, especially when the integrity and good name of other people, a collectivity or an institution are infringed, in this case the Armed Forces of Colombia.

The article published by the aforementioned journalist was biased, unbalanced and lacking veracity, distorting the information collected from different sources -including that provided by the public force officers interviewed- and, in that way, to turn a directive of the Army Commander into a criminal order, completely out of context.

In this sense, the deformed image of our National Army, presented by Mr. Casey to the world, ended up violating the judicial guarantees of the more than 225,000 men who compose it, who have the responsibility to face daily the barbarity of Illegal armed groups, including the so-called «FARC dissidences» honoring of course, the International Humanitarian law.

You have stated that «freedom of the press is vital in any democratic society, and it is the solemn responsibility of government officials to defend it.»  I fully agree with your appreciation. Nevertheless, the respectability of a media is based on its credibility; and when it disappears, the respect and confidence of public opinion is lost.

Journalists have a duty to provide truthful information; but in this case, Mr. Nicholas Casey served more as a political activist (as he has repeatedly done in Guatemala) than as a journalist.

Thanks to the free and serious press, great corruption scandals have been uncovered in the world. However, those of us who have the duty to confront the distorted narrative of reality, we also have the right to exercise our freedom of expression, as referred to in article 20 of the Colombian Political Constitution and in the First Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America.

To conclude, Senator Leahy, your claim that a complaint from government against me for these facts will flourish, violates the elemental principle of separation of powers, which cannot leave a long-term parliamentarian like you on the sidelines.  The Government cannot intervene in the act of the National Congress and, much less, censor or prosecute its opinions.  It is not enough to warn you that my obligation as a parliamentarian is to denounce all those actions and strategies which, under the shelter and misuse of the defense of human rights, hide a clear political intention.

Today, more than ever, despite the pressures and accusations to which I am subject, I reiterate my commitment to the heroes of Colombia, which have been for decades an example of dedication and selfless sacrifice to honor their constitutional obligations; so now we cannot allow them to be stigmatized by isolated facts and recycled media, by biased and fallacious journalism.

With all consideration,

Ms. María Fernanda Cabal Molina

Senator

Republic of Colombia

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