In late September, a group of indigenous Colombians traveled from different parts of Colombia to Bogotá as part of a minga, a public demonstration where indigenous people not only protest but also meet, exchange ideas, debate policies, and participate in cultural traditions.
Once arriving in Bogotá, where the group had come to gather alongside others to show support for the reform proposals of President Gustavo Petro, a small group within the community stopped outside of the offices of Revista Semana and stormed the lobby as a form of protest against the publication’s increasingly contentious coverage in recent years.
In videos that circulated widely across social media channels, members can be seen aggressively rushing through the door and overtaking the space as a security guard attempts to prevent entry. Multiple windows were broken near the entrance, as several protestors shouted statements from atop the keycard security entry stations while denouncing the magazine in front of onlookers inside the lobby.
The demonstrators left without resisting after the police arrived.
Public Officials and Press Members React
The hostile protest spurred an investigation by national authorities, while stirring up wide-ranging emotions and public statements from stakeholders across the country about Semana, the state of the media, and free press at large in Colombia.
Luis Andres Fajardo, Colombian deputy ombudsman, rejected all acts of violence against the Colombian press and its journalists, he assured that freedom of the press is an important pillar in the people’s democracy.
“Freedom of the press is essential for democracy and society,” said Fajardo in a statement to the press. “That is why it is important that all institutions, starting with the national government, make a forceful rejection of attacks against journalists and media. What happened today is a demonstration that when opinions are radicalized they can generate acts of violence in people and organizations.”
The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) pointed out in a statement published on Twitter that these “intimidating acts against journalists” cannot be tolerated, since their exercise is essential “to guarantee information pluralism and democratic debate.”
“We call for a respectful dialogue between all sectors of Colombian society, and reject any form of violence or discrimination. We urge the government and the authorities to investigate these events,” stated the group.
Vicky Dávila, director of Semana and one of the most polarizing media figures in Colombia as she has pushed the publication to the right, decried the incident on Twitter.
“What happened today is a warning for all media and for society,” she posted. “Freedom of the press is in danger. Democracy is at risk here. The attack against Semana by indigenous people who entered breaking everything is a product of the violence to which this journalistic house has been subjected during all this time.”
Andrés Mompotes, director of Bogotá’s leading newspaper El Tiempo, also expressed concern. “No violent aggression against a media outlet contributes to democracy,” he posted publicly. “It is reproachable that a group of indigenous people have resorted to the de facto means at the headquarters of Semana magazine to express their disagreement.”
Mingas Have Become a Common Form of Protest in Bogotá
Mingas have roots dating back very far, and have become a recurring presence in Colombian politics in recent years. During the “Paro Nacional” protests that began in 2020, thousands of indigenous people traveled from the department of Cauca to the capital to demonstrate against then-President Iván Duque.
In 2021, a group of indigenous people took over Parque Nacional in Bogotá in protest because they had been threatened from their neighborhoods in the capital and could not return to their territories in the Pacific region and Risaralda because they were under the control of illegal armed groups. This protest, which lasted almost 11 months, started as an Indigenous Minga as well.
The Guardia Indígena is a group that defends civilians and indigenous people with batons and is protected under the Constitution because indigenous peoples have a special autonomy in the country. In May 2023 this group protested in the Plaza de Bolivar while the National Development Plan was being debated.