Hollman Morris

Hollman Morris (born in August 1968) graduated from Javeriana Pontifical University in Bogotá, Colombia as a Social Communicator and Journalist. He has worked as a journalist for more than 15 years. Throughout his career he has strengthened his knowledge of conflict resolution, armed conflict and Human Rights.

His career began in radio as a reporter for Radio Santa Fé and Todelar, eventually, he moved onto television as a reporter, he worked for several news magazines where he covered Peace and Human Rights sections. He has worked for BBC, Channel 4 and Radio France Inter.

In 2000 Morris established a new section on Peace and Human Rights in the national newspaper “El Spectador”. In this section he focused on writing about the armed conflict from a Human Rights perspective. As a result of the work he covered denouncing Human Rights violations he was forced to leave the country after receiving threats against his life. His decision to leave Colombia was supported by Amnesty International who offered to accept Morris and his family in a program for Human Rights defenders located in Spain.

In 2003, after returning to Colombia, he started directing the weekly television journal „Contravía“ (Countercurrent). The program was supported by the European Union’s Andean Program for Democracy and Human Rights. This allowed him to develop a type of journalism that was independent and that focused on serving those that have been forgotten, which Morris calls “the other side of Colombia”.

One of Hollman Morris’ most important contributions to Human Rights is to make visible the victims of the terrible Colombian conflict. Through his journalistic labor he is giving them a voice. During the last seven years his almost 300 television programs have turned into the memory of the tragedy and the hope in Colombian war. His video archive is considered, by a lot of Colombian Human Rights leaders, as an important source of information to understand Colombian’s recent history.

Some of Morris’ journalistic investigations have contributed to stop impunity on terrible Human Rights violation cases, some of his works are used as proofs by investigators, judges and prosecutors, but the biggest contribution made by his work is to become a part of the construction of Colombia’s recent history and to keep alive the memory of the victims and the Human Rights violations in the country.

This permanent denouncing work, looking for the unofficial version has caused threats against him and his family for the last 10 years. Moreover, on various occasions, Colombian President Uribe has accused Morris of collaborating with rebels of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Morris says he has frequently met with the FARC as part of his work reporting on the conflict. He was also among journalists, judges and opposition politicians whose phones were illegally tapped by Colombia's DAS state security agency. Nearly two dozen former DAS officials have been arrested on criminal conspiracy charges in the scandal and are awaiting trial.

In May 2010, Morris was selected as one of the 12 foreign reporters admitted to the Nieman program for the 2010-11 academic year at Harvard University. The Nieman Foundation program intends to be a safe, if temporary, refuge for foreign journalists, who are targets because they have challenged dictators and privileged oligarchs. However, he then was being denied a visa under the "terrorist activities" section of the Patriot Act. This decision was widely condemned by individuals and groups including among others the Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch. At the end of July 2010 the U.S. State Department reversed its decision to deny a visa and Hollman Morris could travel into the USA with his family where he is living at the moment.

With the election of Gustavo Petro as Mayor, under the banner of Bogota Humana (A Human Bogota), an open dialogue between the electe Mayor and Hollman Morris was initiated about the role of public TV, free speech and the necessity of creating memory in a country with 48 years of conflict. These talks resulted in Hollman Morris being invited to become the new manager of Canal Capital. The new pilar of the channel thus became public television in defense of human rights and the fostering of a culture of peace.

The persecution against the journalist did no wait. One week before starting as General Manager, the transmision infrastructure of Canal Capital was hacked and parts of the guerilla group FARC's anthem were broadcast. A column written by ex-Presidential Advisor for the Uribe Administration also accused Hollman of having links with the FARC.

Despite the continous challenges and threats faced by Hollman Morris and his family, his work in creating a channel in defense of human rights and the fostering of a culture of peace has continued. This new project has found the support of many international opinion leaders. Canal Capital is the first project of its kind in the world according to Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Awards received

2010 Chavikin Journalism Prize, Nacla, New York

2007 Human Rights Defender, Human Rights Watch, New York

2007 Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano, García Márquez Foundation, Monterrey

2007 Circulo de Periodistas de Bogota, Bogotá

As at September 2010

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