This past March, Media Nation celebrated when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reversed a Bush-era ban on South African scholar Adam Habib, who had been prevented from traveling to the United States on unproven and undocumented charges that he was somehow tied to terrorism.
Now the Obama administration — and Clinton’s State Department — are doing what appears to be exactly the same thing to Hollman Morris, a Colombian journalist. Morris, the Washington Post reports, was recently denied a visa to enter the United States so that he could spend a year at Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow.
Morris is not exactly a favorite of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, a right-wing strongman with a miserable human-rights record. The Uribe government has accused Morris of playing nice with the FARC, a left-wing guerrilla movement whose viciousness is beyond question, and which the U.S. government regards as a terrorist organization. By most accounts, though, Morris is guilty of nothing but practicing journalism — which, in Uribe’s eyes, is bad enough.
Not to get all conspiratorial, but it should be noted that the Clintons have longstanding ties to Uribe. In fact, when then-presidential candidate Clinton’s chief political strategist, Mark Penn, was thrown overboard in April 2008, it was over his own unsavory dealings with the Uribe government.
What makes the ban against Morris especially repugnant is that, according to the Spanish news agency EFE, his and his family’s safety has been threatened, and he has been living “under protection” for quite some time. Now the Obama White House has placed him in even greater peril. Fortunately, Morris is currently traveling in Europe, and it sounds like he has no plans to return home anytime soon.
The ban against Habib appeared to be based on nothing more than his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq — hardly a novel view. The exclusion prevented Habib from speaking at an academic conference in Boston, a circumstance that led to a 2008 Boston Phoenix Muzzle Award for Condoleezza Rice and Michael Chertoff, then the secretaries of state and homeland security, respectively.
Likewise, in the absence of any evidence from the Obama administration, it appears that the ban against Morris is motivated by nothing more than a desire not to offend Uribe and the incoming president, Uribe protégé Juan Manuel Santos. Needless to say, Hillary Clinton is an early contender for a 2011 Muzzle.
More coverage: Nieman Foundation curator Robert Giles recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times on Morris’ behalf. The Boston Globe editorialized against the ban. Joshua Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab has a good round-up of other coverage. And we discussed the Morris case last Friday on “Beat the Press,” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).