For freelance journalists operating in Colombia, the ongoing armed conflict has had dangerous and far-reaching consequences. Since the 1960’s, numerous armed groups including drug trafficking gangs, right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas have all vied for increased influence in the country. Threats and violence from the conflict have led to the world’s largest internally displaced population of more than 4.7 million Colombians as of March 2013 according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Colombians in the provinces are left with very little recourse in the face of illegal armed groups who act more often than not with impunity.
In this context, the work local freelance journalists undertake in covering sensitive topics related to these groups and the conflict as a whole means that they are often vulnerable to being targeted, threatened and forced to flee. Many find themselves in the capital of Bogota with little to no contacts and a very difficult time finding opportunities for paid work.
In 2012, freelancers Dagoberto Munoz, Elizabeth Perez, Katalina Vazquez and Sonia Godoy
faced this obstacle when they were each forced to relocate from their home towns because of threats from illegal armed groups. So, the Trust along with local partner La Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa
(FLIP) helped the group to set up a unique online initiative, Laotraorilla.co
, which was successfully launched in September 2012.
The website was conceived as an income-generating digital news medium that would enable displaced freelance journalists to resume work in the capital. Initially intended to produce reports and disseminate information aimed at victims of displacement, specifically information regarding the 2011 Victims and Land Restitution Law which entitled them to compensation and restitution, the site has since broadened its focus. It has played vital role in allowing freelancers to cover stories that would otherwise go underreported.
In August 2013, the website was nominated for the National Award of Human Rights in the category of ‘NGO Collective’.