America

Reversing Course, State Department Grants Colombian Journalist U.S. Visa

Hollman Morris

hide captionColombian journalist Hollman Morris, in Bogota, Colombia, earlier this year. 

AP Photo/Revista Semana

In May, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University announced its 73rd class of Nieman Fellows, including an independent journalist from Colombia, Hollman Morris, hoping to study human rights issues.

Weeks later, the U.S. government denied his request for a visa.

In an interview, Bob Giles, the curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, said "a consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota told him Morris was ruled permanently ineligible for a visa under the 'Terrorist activities' section of the USA Patriot Act."

According to the Associated Press, "on various occasions, President [Alvaro] Uribe has accused Morris of collaborating with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which killed Uribe's father in a 1983 botched kidnapping."

On Feb. 3, 2009, Uribe called Morris "an accomplice of terrorism" posing as a journalist after Morris showed up with FARC rebels to cover the insurgents' liberation of four Colombian security force members.

Morris was also among journalists, judges and opposition politicians whose phones were illegally tapped by Colombia's DAS state security agency.

It was the first time in the program's history that a foreign Nieman Fellow wasn't granted a visa.

Today, in the wake of pressure from Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists, among other organizations, the State Department reversed its decision, Harvard announced.

Morris is now free to travel to the U.S., to join his colleagues — including NPR's Gwen Thompkins — in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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