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Forgiveness for a heinous crime against independent journalism

In the midst of the commemoration of Journalists’ Day, the Colombian state belatedly apologised to the country, to the journalists of El Espectador and to the victim’s family for the assassination on 17 December 1986 of Mr Guillermo Cano Izasa, editor of the prestigious and combative liberal newspaper.


Germán Ayala Osorio*


Justice Minister Néstor Osuna’s request for forgiveness came almost 38 years after the atrocious crime against independent journalism, journalistic ethics and the dignified life of a sharp reporter committed, like few others, to the search for the truth.

The executioner: Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, the most bloodthirsty serial killer in Colombian history.

Their accomplices: state agents, part of society, corrupt businessmen and Luis Carlos Molina and the company Confirmesa. Former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez appears as a leading member of the company’s board of directors.

It is macabre, strange and striking that the company that issued the cheque used to pay Guillermo Cano’s hitmen alludes to the firm, solid and consistent stance of the great reporter.

In fact, this company was not registered under the name of Confirmesa. Osuna’s plea for forgiveness sounded sincere and heartfelt, a fact that suggests that it was not a simple ceremony in compliance with an order from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

On the contrary, the country understood that the meeting constituted a commitment for justice to continue to investigate the crime, until it reaches those in political power who helped perpetrate the assassination against the only media outlet of the time that “stood up to Pablo Escobar” and several white-collar bandits.

Just as there were journalists like Guillermo Cano who did not allow themselves to be intimidated by the cruel murderer from Antioquia, others became part of the payrolls of the Medellín and Cali cartels: broadcasters, sports and judicial journalists allowed themselves to be co-opted by the mafias of the time. Perhaps this is the origin of the crisis of credibility of journalism in Colombia.

It is time to start eroding the narratives that turned Pablo Escobar into a hero and put him on hats, T-shirts, key rings and TV series after his death. And the best way to do this is to build a sufficiently universal narrative that places journalists of the calibre of Don Guillermo Cano at the centre of social admiration.

It is excremental that there is a tourist route to learn about the misdeeds and crimes of Pablo Escobar, and not one that takes locals and outsiders to learn about the strong ethical and moral formation of the journalistic family that confronted powerful economic agents who, with the threat of the withdrawal of advertising, wanted to prevent their filthy financial manoeuvres from being published.

*Germán Ayala Osorio: Social communicator, journalist and political scientist, author of the blog La otra tribuna.

(Translated by Cristina Popa – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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