Marta Colomina Reyero is a noted Venezuelan journalist who has been the victim of intimidation, threats, and violence for her work.
Originally from Barcelona, Spain, Colomina immigrated to Venezuela at an early age. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Journalism from the Universidad del Zulia (LUZ) in Maracaibo. She went on to receive a Masters degree in Communication from Stanford University, and continued her postgraduate studies at the University of Barcelona and the Sorbonne, among others. At LUZ, she worked as head of the School of Communication and chief of the Department of Research in Communication and Public Opinion, and also served as president of the Venezuelan Association of Communication Researchers. She holds several professorial appointments at several renowned Venezuelan universities.
Colomina has served as president of Venezuelan state-run television station VTV and director of the newspaper El Nuevo País. She is a prolific writer and her published books include El Huesped Alienante, La Celestina Mecánica, and Comunicación y Democracia en America Latina, among many other articles and essays. She hosted the morning show “La Entrevista” in Televen for almost ten years, but was forced to leave in March of 2005 after government officials, including the Vice-President himself, began threatening and even fining Televen executives in an effort to pressure them to stop employing her. . Her voice continued to be heard on the national radio station Union Radio, where she conducted interviews and worked as a radio host. Her Sunday newspaper column “Feedback” heads the opinion section in the national newspaper El Universal. She has received numerous awards for her work as a social communicator, professor, journalist, and researcher.
Colomina’s journalistic style, characterized by thorough research and straightforward criticism of the Venezuelan government, has provoked aggressive response from government representatives and the government’s supporters. In 1998 Colomina began to criticize the presidential campaign of Hugo Chavez. Colomina’s analysis described the presidential hopeful as “fascist and totalitarian.” Colomina would frequently refer to the 1992 coup d’état against then-president Carlos Andres Pérez. Her articles portrayed Chávez as a dangerous, undemocratic politician.
Colomina’s prominence, combined with her open criticism, quickly made her a symbol around which many people who opposed the government coalesced. She says that she then began receiving multiple threats, including death threats, from people who identified themselves as government supporters. On June 27, 2003, she survived an assassination attempt when, on her way to her television show, one of eight men carrying high caliber weapons threw a 19 liter Molotov cocktail at her car. She was fortunately saved by a protective anti-munitions layer on her windshield.
Even before this violent incident, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had granted provisional cautionary measures to Colomina, along with journalists Ibéyise Pacheco, Patricia Poleo, and Marianela Salazar, in order to protect their rights to life and personal integrity. These measures were taken after these four journalists broadcasted a video on January 30, 2002, of friendly conversations between officials in the Venezuelan army and the members of the FARC terrorist organization. The day after the broadcast, two men on motorcycles threw an explosive device at the headquarters of the newspaper Asi es la Noticia where Ibéyise Pacheco was the editor-in-chief, destroying the main gate of the building. Colomina was labeled a “fascist, terrorist, and enemy of the revolution” in pamphlets and on state-run television and radio stations by self-identified government supporters. Multiple state functionaries, including a former secretary of defense, called her an “undesirable foreigner” and a member of parliament initiated a procedure with the attorney general’s office to revoke her Venezuelan citizenship.
The IACHR protective measures for Colomina were reinforced after the June 2003 attempt on her life. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared that the Venezuelan state had failed to fulfill its duty as had been ordered in Colomina’s case, and reminded the Venezuelan government that it should adopt, as soon as possible, all necessary measures to protect the life, personal integrity and freedom of speech—not only of Marta Colomina but also of the other persecuted journalists.
Colomina now carries out her work accompanied by two police bodyguards for her protection; however, this protection was never ordered by the state and was provided instead by an independent initiative from the mayor of Chacao, a municipality in Caracas run by an opposition politician.
The threats, harassment, and physical and verbal attacks on Colomina have continued, however, and are made worse by inflammatory Venezuelan government speeches against her, which incite violence. The most recent violent attack occurred on February 14, 2008, when the police officers who serve as Colomina’s security detail were shot and wounded by four armed men. One of them was seriously injured with a gunshot wound to the face. The incident further underlined Colomina’s standing as a persecuted figure in light of the failure of relevant state authorities to perform an objective and unbiased investigation of the case.
Marta Colomina’s case is not atypical in Venezuela, where journalists and other individuals who are critical of the Venezuelan government are routinely persecuted and attacked by government supporters, while having little or no protection or recourse. Recent cases include the assassination attempt on Chacao Mayor Leopoldo López (resulting in the death of his bodyguard on March 29, 2006); the killing of journalist Patricia Poleo’s bodyguard on September 2, 2002; and the assassination attempt on human rights advocate Mónica Fernandez on January 5, 2008.
- Resolution of the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the cases of Marta Colomina and Liliana Velásquez (July 30, 2003)
- Provisional measures for the cases of Marta Colomina and Liliana Velásquez—Inter-American Court of Human Rights (December 2, 2003)
- Provisional measures for “El Nacional” and “Así es la Noticia”—Inter-American Court of Human Rights (July 6, 2004)
- Provisional measures in favor of Marta Colomina—Inter-American Court of Human Rights (July 4, 2006)
|Last and First Names:||Marta Colomina|
|Place of Birth:||Barcelona, Spain|
|Children:||Celalba and Marta Rivera Colomina|
|Languages:||Spanish and English