In a show of international solidarity, journalism and human rights organizations from throughout the hemisphere are calling on the U.S. government to reverse its ban prohibiting renowned Colombian journalist Hollman Morris from entering the United States to take his place as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.
The Progressive first broke the story in June that the U.S. embassy in Bogotadenied a visa for Morris, whose award-winning television program Contravía(loosely translated as "against traffic," or "the wrong way") has been a harsh critic of Colombia's armed conflict and the government. Contravía's investigative work has revealed links between paramilitary leaders and Colombian officials, resulting in the imprisonment of 30 Congress members, according to a feature story about Morris in theColumbia Journalism Review.
Despite -- or perhaps because of -- his stories and human rights work, Morris has been deemed permanently ineligible for a visa under the "terrorist activities" section of the U.S. Patriot Act, the Associated Press (AP) and the Washington Post reported.
"We were very surprised. This has never happened before," Nieman curator Bob Giles told the AP. "And Hollman has traveled previously in the United States to give speeches and receive awards." For example, Morris participated in the Knight Center's Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas in September 2009, where he spoke about "The other side of digital technologies: how governments are use technology to spy on journalists and human rights advocates—the case of Colombia."
"Anti-terrorism laws are a threat to democracy if they can lead to the perverse and shocking victimisation of genuine human rights defenders like Hollman Morris," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
Earlier this year, Clinton lifted visa exclusions for South African political science professorAdam Habib and Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic studies professor from Switzerland. "The recent news that Mr. Morris has been denied a visa runs counter to this administration's decisions in the Habib and Ramadan cases," the letter to Clinton stated.
Also according to the letter, "No legitimate interest is served by the exclusion of foreign nationals on ideological grounds. Ideological exclusion impoverishes intellectual inquiry and debate in the United States, suggests to the world that our country is more interested in silencing than engaging its critics, and undermines our ability to support dissent in politically repressive nations."