Nieman News

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Aug. 22, 2000) — Ignacio Gomez, a Colombian journalist who fled to the United States last month under death threats in his own country, will spend part of his time in exile as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Gomez, an investigative reporter for the newspaper El Espectador in Bogota, joins 24 other journalists who were named earlier for the 2000-2001 academic year at Harvard.

In announcing the appointment, Nieman curator Bob Giles said Gomez is an aggressive reporter who encountered great physical danger while digging into some of that country’s most difficult issues.

“Ignacio brings to the Nieman program and the Harvard community a rare perspective on the inconceivable difficulties of working as an investigative journalist in a country where he has continued to report in the face of death threats by right-wing paramilitaries, cocaine traffickers, corrupt politicians and military officers, and where his own government won’t provide him protection,” Giles said.

During the last decade, 36 journalists have been murdered in Colombia.

Gomez, 38, has reported on the relationship between the Colombian government and major economic groups in the country, and on the growing role of the United States military in the Colombian civil war and its links with organizations accused of violating human rights.

Gomez disclosed that the massacre of 49 people in the village of Mapiripan in 1997 was carried out by right-wing paramilitaries with the help of Colombian military forces.

Funding for Gomez’ Nieman Fellowship is being provided by The Freedom Forum.

From time to time, the Nieman Foundation awards a fellowship after the class has been selected to a journalist who has encountered a dangerous or career-threatening situation. Most recently, another Colombian journalist, Francisco Santos Calderon, managing editor and columnist for El Tiempo newspaper in Bogota, joined the 1991-92 class of Nieman Fellows after he had been kidnapped and then released by members of the Colombian drug cartel.

Nieman Fellowships are awarded to working journalists for an academic year in any part of Harvard. Including Gomez, 13 international journalists will join 12 U.S. journalists in this year’s Nieman class.

The Nieman Fellowships were established in 1938. More than 1,000 journalists from the U.S. and from 71 other countries have participated in the program.

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