Jineth Bedoya Lima
Status: Under Threat
Jineth Bedoya Lima is a Colombian journalist who reports on law enforcement, paramilitary groups, and abductions within Colombia. Bedoya Lima was abducted twice while reporting—once on May 25, 2000, while working for El Espectador, when she was kidnapped and raped during a set up for an interview with a paramilitary group leader; and again in August 2003 while working for El Tiempo. Today she continues to work as a journalist for El Tiempo with the protection of government-assigned bodyguards and a bulletproof car and campaigns to bring awareness to the issue of sexual violence.
During a ceremony at the Women of the World Festival in London March 2017, Bedoya received RAW in WAR’s Anna Politkovskaya Award.
On May 25, 2000, then-26-year-old Jineth Bedoya Lima was on her way to La Modelo Prison in Bogota to report on the murders of prisoners at the hands of inmates belonging to paramilitary groups. Outside the prison, she was abducted, drugged, and forced into a car by three men. She was repeatedly raped and tortured as they drove her far away. They then left her by a garbage dump, where a taxi driver discovered her hours later. During the sexual abuse, Bedoya Lima said the attackers grabbed her hair and asked her to “pay attention,” because they were “sending a message to the Colombian press.” Bedoya Lima had been publishing the names of paramilitary group leaders as well as reporting on arms trafficking and violence in Colombian prisons.
In early August 2003, Bedoya Lima traveled to the town of Puerto Alvira to report on its seizure by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who had coerced its 1,100 citizens to produce cocaine full-time. Upon her arrival, she was immediately kidnapped along with her photographer; both were stripped of their clothing and all their belongings were confiscated. However, she was soon freed, and published a story on life in FARC-controlled territory.
After 11 years without any justice in her 2000 abduction and rape case in Colombia, Bedoya Lima finally appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco, a former paramilitary soldier, was arrested in May 2011 and confessed to being one of her three attackers. He retracted his confession in 2013 and was sentenced to 11 years in prison in February 2016. In March 2016, a second former paramilitary soldier, Mario Jaimes Mejía, received a 28 year prison sentence for his role in her attack.
Bedoya Lima’s horrific account of abduction and abuse illustrates the dangers and challenges a journalist faces not only when covering conflict, but also as a female working in the field. Bedoya Lima now stands as a voice of strength and justice against sexual violence. She leads the campaign “No es hora de callar” (Now is not the time to be quiet), which aims to break the silence on sexual violence. Additionally, May 25—the day of her rape and kidnapping—has now been established by the Colombian government as the National Day for the Dignity of Women Victims of Sexual Violence caused by the Internal Armed Conflict.
For her accomplishments and bravery, Bedoya Lima was awarded the CJFE International Press Freedom Award in 2000, the Courage in Journalism Award of the International Women’s Media Foundation in 2001, and the International Women of Courage Award in 2012.
April 30, 2020: Bedoya Lima is awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
November 5, 2019: Bedoya Lima receives the Inter American Press Association’s 2019 Press Freedom Grand Prize. The same day, she receives threatening calls and menacing messages.
July 19, 2019: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights concludes that the State violated the rights to judicial guarantees and judicial protection, since it did not act within a reasonable period of time in the investigation of the facts.
July 16, 2019: After concluding that the State of Colombia had not complied with its recommendations, the Inter-American Commission presents Bedoya’s case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
May 2019: Nineteen years after the attack, two men are convicted and imprisoned. Both men appealed their sentences. In the decision, the court found that other third parties could be held responsible, including a former high ranking police official.
January 16, 2019: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concludes that Colombia was responsible for the violation of Bedoya Lima’s right to life, personal integrity, personal liberties, private life, freedom of expression, and equality before law and judicial guarantees. The Commission recommends that Colombia conduct a complete, impartial, and effective investigation into the circumstances of the crimes committed against the journalist, including the possible participation of state agents. It also recommends that Colombia adopt effective protection measures to guarantee the safety of women journalists.
June 1, 2015: The Federal Attorney General’s office drops the charges against one of her alleged attackers, Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco. He is re-arrested a few days later.
September 2014: The Federal Attorney General’s office decides to officially recognize the abuse she faced as crimes against humanity.
May 2011: Lawyers with the Foundation for Press Freedom file a petition on her behalf with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.