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Journalist receives death threats after reporting on alleged municipal corruption in Barrancabermeja

(FLIP/IFEX) - Diego Waldrón, the editor-owner of the magazine "Revista Gente" in the city of Barrancabermeja, Santander department, has reported to authorities that he has been the target of anonymous threats, apparently in relation to an article he published on municipal corruption.

On 18 April 2007 at 7:00 a.m. (local time), Waldrón's wife received a threatening telephone call in which the caller said: "Tell the owner that he'd better stop talking or what happened to Ricuarte in San Mateo will also happen to him." Ricuarte was a hero of the wars of independence who was killed in an explosion.

The threats were received days after the magazine carried a special report denouncing corruption in the local government. Waldrón told FLIP that the report dealt with a series of contracts awarded by the mayor of Barrancabermeja, Edgar Cote Gravino, apparently to the advantage of his personal associates.

According to Waldrón, councillor Daniel Patiño, a possible mayoral candidate supported by Cote Gravino, called him a few days prior to the publication of the report to request a meeting. When they met, Patiño offered the journalist 25 million pesos (approx. US$12,000) to refrain from publishing the report. "Since I just stood up and walked away from the offer, and then published the report, they are now seeking some other way to shut me up," added the journalist. Within three days, all 3,000 issues of the magazine were sold out.

Some of Waldrón's colleagues told FLIP that they are concerned about the threats, considering the fact that the magazine's style and language can be aggressive on occasion. Although this in no way justifies the threats, these journalists note that such boldness only increases the risks for the media outlet.

Patiño assured FLIP that the accusations against him are completely false. "I respect journalists and the media; here (in Barrancabermeja) people know me as a serious person with Christian values." The councillor asserted that he did not intend to take any legal action against Waldrón for the accusations made.

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