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TWO JOURNALISTS FROM SAME STATION MURDERED, AUC LINKED TO GARZÓN?S MURDER

On 13 December, Alfredo Abad Lopez, director of the radio station Voz de la Selva (Voice of the Jungle) in the southern city of Florencia, was shot and killed, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and Reporters sans frontières (RSF). Abad was shot at point-blank range by two men on a motorcycle, state the reports. While the motive for the assassination and the identity of the attackers remain unclear, CPJ reports that a confidential source familiar with Florencia's militant groups said Abad appeared to have been murdered by paramilitary gunmen after he began investigating the recent death of one of his colleagues.

On 30 November, Guillermo Leon Agudalo, also a La Voz de la Selva journalist, was bound, gagged and then stabbed to death in his home by two unidentified men, states CPJ. Local police told CPJ that he was likely murdered for refusing extortion demands, and ruled out any connection between the murder and his work as a journalist. Florencia is a former stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerrilla organisation, notes CPJ. More recently the town has become a power base for an anti-Communist paramilitary group linked to Carlos Castaño's United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). Both groups, as well as criminals, often resort to extortion to fund their operations, says CPJ.

IAPA is publicly appealing to the Colombian government to conduct an immediate investigation into both cases. The chair of IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Rafael Molina, says that "given the circumstances surrounding the two murders it is imperative to carry out a prompt, painstaking and speedy investigation to bring those guilty to justice." IPYS reports that the public prosecutor is currently investigating into whether or not the two journalists' murders were linked.

In other news, IPYS reports that the leader of the hit squad "La Terraza" has publicly acknowledged that the group killed Colombian journalist and humourist Jaime Garzon on the orders from Carlos Castaño Gil, head of the AUC. The AUC apparently paid approximately US$15,000 for Garzon's assassination. Garzon was murdered in Bogotá on 13 August 1999. No one has been punished for the crime, reports IPYS. The report gives greater credence to suspicions of the AUC's involvement in Garzon's death. IPYS states that "days before his death, Garzon had told his relatives and close friends that he was terrified of being killed by Castaño."


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