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Steps away from the impunity

In a groundbreaking case, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held a state responsible for the murder of a journalist: The 1998 death of journalist Nelson Carvajal was held to be the responsibility of the state of Colombia .[1]   The ruling held that that Colombia did not abide by its duty to guarantee Carvajal’s freedom of expression, failed to protect his right to life, and failed to investigate adequately, including failing to identify and sanction the masterminds of the crime in a timely way.

Too often, those who murder communicators are brought to justice but those who mastermind or order the killings are never prosecuted.

In Paraguay (2nd quartile), the trend was bucked when Vilmar Acosta – former mayor, and the mastermind of the murder of journalist Pablo Medina – was sentenced to prison. Though a key step forward, other political players may have been complicit in facilitating Acosta’s initial escape to Brazil, but their acts have not been investigated.[2]

In the Dominican Republic, a similar judgment was passed in which the mastermind of the murder of Avelino Castro (also a journalist) was sentenced to prison.[3]

The case of WHRD Berta Cáceres has not seen such success. In November, courts in Honduras convicted seven men of Cáceres’s murder. Executives from DESA – a company constructing a dam in indigenous territories – had hired the men. The criminal process was marked by irregularities, and concerns remain that those who masterminded and profited from her murder will not be held accountable.[4]


[1] IFEX, Edison Lanza on Carvajal Case: A ‘Very Significant’ Verdict for the Americas, 8 June 2019, available at

[2] IFEX, Historic Prison Term for Former Mayor Behind Killing of Journalist, 8 January 2018, available at

[3] Committee to Protect Journalists, Dominican Republic Convicts Man Over 2011 Murder of Journalist, 11 April 2018, available at

[4] Front Line Defenders, Global Analysis 2018, 7 January 2019, available at