NEW YORK—The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) announced Tuesday that Colombian investigative journalist Hollman Morris will receive the 2010 Samuel Chavkin Prize for Integrity in Latin American Journalism in honor of his brave work exposing human rights abuses in his country. Morris, 42, a native of Bogotá, has spent more than 15 years covering the armed conflict in Colombia, giving voice to the victims of violence and oppression. He is the editorial director of Contravía (Against the Current), a weekly investigative news show that since 2002 has aired more than 200 half-hour episodes covering the most important human rights cases in Colombia.
As a result of his work, which often takes on the Colombian government’s complicity in human rights abuses, Morris has been targeted by the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), a domestic intelligence service under the command of the Colombian presidency. According to recently released documents, Morris has been subjected to a “smear campaign,” as the DAS itself described it, intended to discredit his journalism. Officials at the highest levels of government have said Morris is “linked” to leftist guerrillas and called him a “terrorist sympathizer”—accusations that, although unsubstantiated, led directly to death threats against him.
Contravía has always been financially supported by the European Union, and more recently by the Open Society Institute. Yet it has been targeted by the Colombian government as a subversive threat. The campaign against Morris and Contravía was just one component of a larger, systematic attempt by the Colombian government’s security apparatus to silence dissenters—including human rights organizations, judges, members of congress, and journalists—through illegal surveillance and intimidation. Despite this, Morris has fearlessly pressed ahead with his investigations, making him an outstanding candidate for the Chavkin Prize.
The Chavkin Prize is awarded every 18 months to an outstanding investigative reporter working in Latin America or the Caribbean exposing injustice and oppression, or documenting struggles for social justice and democracy in the region. The award ceremony will be held Tuesday, June 8 in New York City. Morris will be introduced by Columbia University journalism professor John Dinges, author of The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents (The New Press, 2004).
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