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FARC guerrilla group threatens journalist, allegedly orders assassination of radio programme host

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 9 November 2010, Jineth Bedoya Lima, the legal issues editor for the daily "El Tiempo", was threatened by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group after the launch of her new book about a recently assassinated FARC leader known as "Mono Jojoy". In one section of her book, Bedoya alleges that "Mono Jojoy" issued an order for the assassination of Caracol Radio journalist Néstor Morales. The book is based on testimony from demobilised FARC members who were close to the guerrilla leader.

On the same day as the book launch, the Noticias Nueva Colombia news agency posted a headline on its website saying, "Jineth Bedoya, journalist or military intelligence agent? (sic)". The news agency is aligned with the FARC. Later that day, Bedoya was contacted by police and military intelligence agents who said that, after analysing the headline, they considered it to be a threat against her.

Bedoya told FLIP that she "expected a reaction from the FARC after the publication of the book," but she was nonetheless more concerned after being informed of the high level of risk the authorities were attributing to her case.

Wilson Baquero, the National Police's chief press officer, told FLIP that Bedoya's case is being handled by individuals high up in the police command structure and that a meeting had been held to determine the security measures that were to be provided to the journalist.

Bedoya specialises in investigations into topics relating to the armed conflict. Over the years, she has repeatedly been the target of death threats and, as a result, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued recommendations for her protection. In 2000, she was kidnapped, tortured and raped by paramilitary personnel. Her assailants were never brought to justice.

In one part of her book, Bedoya mentions that, according to her sources, "Mono Jojoy" frequently listened to Caracol Radio's "Hora 10" opinion programme hosted by Morales because he liked the programme's political analyses. However, in mid-2008, the programme began covering the topic of the possible weakening of the FARC after the Colombian military conducted several successful operations against it. According to Bedoya, this coverage infuriated "Mono Jojoy" and, as a result, he issued an order for Morales to be assassinated. Bedoya further noted that the army was aware of the assassination plot.

After finding out about the threat following the publication of the book, Morales told FLIP that he was "surprised and concerned". He noted that the recent death of "Mono Jojoy" did nothing to change the situation since the assassination order against him had already been issued. Morales added that he could not understand why he had not been alerted about the assassination order, taking into account that the army knew of the plot.

FLIP is concerned about and condemns the threats issued by the FARC against Bedoya and Morales. The organisation calls on the Colombian government to provide the journalists with adequate protective measures and urges the National Attorney General's Office to conduct an investigation into the threats. FLIP further calls on the FARC to respect the lives of journalists and reminds the guerrilla group that journalism work is protected by international human rights law.
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