The U.S. State Department just reversed course. It agreed to give a visa to prize-winning Colombian journalist Hollman Morris so he could come to Harvard as a Nieman fellow.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard announced the State Department’s change of position in a press release on July 27.
“We’re very pleased that the situation has been resolved this way. Many concerned individuals worked together to support Hollman during the past month,” said Nieman Foundation Curator Bob Giles. He added that “many journalists and human rights activists view efforts to link Morris with FARC [the guerrilla movement] as the Colombian government’s way to discredit his work.”
Cecilia Zarate-Laun, founder of the Colombian Support Network, believes that officials in the Obama Administration were ultimately embarrassed by their effort to deny Hollman a visa on the specious grounds that he was connected to terrorism.
“They realized that this case was so blatantly absurd and so public that they
had to step back,” Zarate-Laun says. “The U.S. government is unable to distinguish freedom from terrorism because it defines terrorism so broadly.” She also faults Washington officials for being “so careful to please governments with which carry out their ‘War on Terrorism’—principally Colombia in Latin America.”
In a related story, Zarate-Laun herself and her husband, Jack, were detained for four hours in Miami on July 17 on their way back from a trip to Colombia they took with Noam Chomsky to dedicate forest in honor of his late wife.
An immigration officer “asked us a series of questions about one of the people we have visited and worked with in one of the sister communities of CSN,” they reported. The officer also “showed us a piece of paper on which were listed two telephone numbers with a 312 exchange, and she asked if we knew where they were from (we said we thought Chicago was area code 312) and whose numbers they were. Neither of us recognized either of the numbers.”
The Launs missed their return flight home and had to take a later one.
“Our detention is a warning signal to organizations such as ours which work in solidarity with local rural base communities in other countries—in Latin America, Haiti and Palestine,” they said. “The challenge to CSN’s work implicit in our immigration detention casts doubt upon the Obama administration’s trumpeted dedication to justice and human rights.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his article “Octavia Nasr’s Outrageous Firing from CNN.”
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