Free Speech Groups Ask Secretary Clinton To Review Exclusion Of Colombian Journalist

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Free Speech Groups Ask Secretary Clinton To Review Exclusion Of Colombian Journalist

U.S. Should Not Ban People On Ideological Grounds

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union,
American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center
today sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing
alarm over reports that prominent Colombian journalist Hollman Morris
was denied a visa to travel to the United States. Morris was one of 12
international journalists selected to participate in the Nieman
fellowship program at Harvard University during the 2010-11 academic
year. However, when he applied for a visa in order to attend the
program, he was informed by the U.S. embassy in Bogota that he had been
found permanently ineligible for a visa under the Patriot Act.

According to today's letter, the
exclusion of Morris limits the ability of his "colleagues and hosts to
exercise fully their First Amendment rights," and is out of step with
"this administration's stated commitment to fostering a free exchange of
information and ideas between the U.S. and the world."

Earlier this year, Clinton signed
orders effectively lifting the exclusion from the United States of
prominent scholars Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan.

The full text of the letter is below
and online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/letter-secretary-state-clinton-regarding-ideological-exclusion-colombian-journalis

July 13, 2010

Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We are writing on behalf of the
American Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University
Professors, and PEN American Center to express our alarm over reports
that prominent Colombian journalist Hollman Morris has been denied a
visa to travel to the United States.

Mr. Morris has traveled to the United
States numerous times in the past at the invitation of leading human
rights and journalists' organizations interested in his experiences as a
journalist covering the armed conflict in Colombia and his perspective
on the political situation in his country. In 2007 he was honored by
Human Rights Watch with its prestigious Human Rights Defender award, and
he was one of 12 international journalists selected to participate in
the Nieman fellowship program at Harvard University for the 2010-2011
academic year. The Nieman fellowship program is the oldest and most
distinguished program for mid-career journalists in the world.  It was
in applying for a visa to attend this program that Mr. Morris was
reportedly informed by a consular official at the U.S. embassy in Bogota
that he has been found permanently ineligible for a visa under the
security provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Earlier this year, our organizations
wrote to thank you for signing orders effectively ending the exclusion
of Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan, two internationally-recognized scholars
who had been barred from traveling to the United States by the previous
administration. Professor Habib and Professor Ramadan were among dozens
of prominent foreign intellectuals and writers who had visas canceled
or denied between 2001 and 2008 to prevent them from assuming teaching
posts at U.S. universities, fulfilling speaking engagements with U.S.
audiences, and attending U.S. academic conferences. Deeply troubled by
this resurgence in the discredited practice of ideological exclusion, we
were gratified by your efforts to lift the ban on these two colleagues
and hopeful that this signaled a willingness on the part of the Obama
administration to end the practice of barring those whose views the
government disfavors from the United States. No legitimate interest is
served by the exclusion of foreign nationals on ideological grounds.
Ideological exclusion impoverishes intellectual inquiry and debate in
the United States, suggests to the world that our country is more
interested in silencing than engaging its critics, and undermines our
ability to support dissent in politically repressive nations.

The recent news that Mr. Morris has
been denied a visa runs counter to this administration's decisions in
the Habib and Ramadan cases. Not only does his exclusion limit the
ability of his Harvard colleagues and hosts to fully exercise their
First Amendment rights, it also, by virtue of the reach and stature of
the Nieman program, projects a particularly visible and troubling
message-a message that clearly does not accord with this
administration's stated commitment to fostering a free exchange of
information and ideas between the U.S. and the world. We therefore ask
you to review the exclusion of Hollman Morris as a matter of urgency,
with an eye toward allowing him to join his colleagues at Harvard
University in early September.

Thank you in advance for your
attention to this important matter. If you have any questions, please
contact ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin.

Sincerely,
                                   

Anthony Romero               
Executive Director
ACLU

Gary Rhoades
General Secretary
AAUP

Kwame Anthony Appiah
President
PEN American Center

cc:    Harold Koh
        Legal Advisor to the
Secretary of State

###

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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