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Nieman Fellow Hollman Morris May Be Granted Visa

By Xi Yu, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED 10:07 p.m.

A Colombian journalist who was denied entrance to the United States may be granted his student visa to participate in a journalism fellowship at Harvard, according to an e-mail sent this morning to the organizations and individuals who rallied to his aid.

Hollman Morris Rincon, a Nieman Fellow for the 2010-2011 year, expressed "solidarity" with those who supported his career in "defending the truth and human rights" in his objective reporting of the sufferings and ravages of the war in Colombia, stated his e-mail, which was written in Spanish.

Nieman Foundation Curator Robert H. Giles said that Morris, who is currently on vacation in Spain, has been asked to meet with the consulate in Bogota, Colombia. The meeting will take place sometime this week.

The acclaimed human rights reporter and producer of an independent television news program was denied a student visa by the Department of State on "security-related grounds."

A reporter known for his critical coverage of Colombia President Álvaro Uribe Vélez’s administration, Morris developed connections with sources who did not support the outgoing president—a move that could have been interpreted as terrorist activity, according to Giles.

The decision by the federal government had prompted several journalism and human rights organizations to rally behind Morris' situation.

“The denial is alarming,” Giles wrote in a tersely-worded editorial expressing the far-reaching impacts on freedom of speech. “It would represent a major recasting of press freedom doctrine if journalists, by establishing contacts with so-called terrorist organizations in the process of gathering news, open themselves to accusations of terrorist activities and the possibility of being barred from travel to the United States.”

Nieman Fellows from the class of 1988 have shown their support for Morris by sending e-mails to Juan Manuel Santos, who recently won the presidency of Colombia in a landslide election and had previously served as the finance minister under Uribe. Santos was a 1988 Nieman Fellow and the sub-director of his family-owned newspaper El Tiempo, which has the largest circulation in the country.

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, the Human Rights Watch, and the Committee to Protect Journalists are other organizations participating in the fight against the denial of Morris’ entry into the United States. Thirty-one faculty members at the University of Texas, Austin wrote a letter to Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expansion called for Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton to take action.

Darby G. Holladay, spokesperson for the Department of State, responded on Friday to The Crimson’s second request for comment by repeating its privacy policy.

“Persuant to Section 222 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, visa records are confidential, and we are unable to discuss the specific details of Mr. Morris’ case,” Holladay said.

—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at xyu@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: July 26, 2010

An earlier version of the article "Nieman Fellow Hollman Morris May Be Granted Visa" and its headline incorrectly stated that Hollman Morris Rincon "obtained" and "has finally been granted" his student visa based on an e-mail from Morris. In fact, he has not actually received the visa in hand.

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