Colombia’s Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez has withdrawn a criminal complaint alleging InSight Crime Co-director Jeremy McDermott defamed her character in a series about a drug trafficker. The decision came after widespread national and international outcry concerning the criminal complaint.
A lawyer for the vice president, Victor Mosquera Marin, made the announcement in a July 29 tweet: “By precise instructions from Marta Lucía Ramírez and given the clarification made by Jeremy McDermott in the media and on Twitter today, we consider the controversy to be over and we immediately move to withdraw the criminal complaint.”
In her own tweet posted shortly after, Vice President Ramírez confirmed that she considered the case to be over with and that she would be withdrawing the criminal complaint.
As InSight Crime previously reported, Vice President Ramírez was never accused of being involved in any illegal activity in the six-part investigative series published in March, which tracked Madrid-based businessman Guillermo León Acevedo Giraldo, also known as “Memo Fantasma,” a former drug trafficker and leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia — AUC).
McDermott said that he was relieved for himself and his InSight Crime team. “We did not change a single word in the investigation, and this validates our work,” he said from Medellín.
The announcement came after press-freedom advocates in Colombia and around the world roundly condemned the charges.
In a July 28 statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that the vice president “should drop her criminal defamation suit.” Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa — FLIP) also denounced the complaint in a statement to InSight Crime and in a series of posts on Twitter.
“Taking criminal action from the place of power that she [Vice President Ramírez] occupies is the wrong way to deal with controversies,” the foundation said.
McDermott stressed that while he is thankful, the dropping of the lawsuit does not change the fact that journalists in Colombia can still be threatened with legal action using the same law that was used against him. He questioned whether a Colombian journalist would have seen the same outcome if faced with a similar situation.
“Colombia should have scrapped criminal defamation from its books long ago, in line with growing regional trends. Ramírez should drop her suit against Jeremy McDermott immediately, and the country should reform its laws,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick.
The director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division, José Miguel Vivanco, echoed that sentiment, adding that “defamation penal code norms violate human rights norms.”