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REGIONS:

TV JOURNALIST GUNNED DOWN

IFEX members have expressed concern over the murder of broadcast journalist William Soto Cheng, shot dead by unknown assailants in Buenaventura, Colombia on 18 December, 2003.

Soto, 46, was shot by two men on a motorcycle near the offices of Telemar, where he hosted two programs, reports the Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para libertad de la prensa, FLIP). He died at the scene.

Soto was a 15-year news veteran and hosted a news program and sports show on Telemar. He had received threats since late October 2003, after linking police and military officials to vote-counting irregularities during the 26 October elections, says the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Soto retracted his comments and apologised after criminal charges were laid against him.

Soto was known as a controversial figure and had many enemies in Buenaventura, notes CPJ. A few months ago, Soto threatened to denounce a local official on his television show unless the official gave Soto government advertising, according to a CPJ source. The source also said that before his murder, Soto had threatened to denounce the local water utility for misconduct unless the manager canceled a debt Soto owed.

Two suspects have been arrested.

According to a recent IAPA report, 10 journalists were killed in Colombia in 2003. Between March and October of that year, 30 journalists reported receiving death threats, seven fled the country and two were kidnapped.

Visit these links:

- IFEX alerts and reports on Colombia: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/133/

- IAPA: http://www.sipiapa.com/pulications/report_colombia2004.cfm

- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=8847

- FLIP: http://www.flip.org.co/

- Institute for Press and Society: http://www.ipys.org

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