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Owner of Araucan radio station murdered in Villavicencio, army personnel captured at scene of crime

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 14 June 2007, Garrid Muñoz Tello, owner of La Voz del Cinaruco radio station, based in Arauca, the capital of the department of the same name, was murdered in strange circumstances in the city of Villavicencio, capital of the department of Meta. The murder took place in a hotel located on the highway connecting Villavicencio with Bogotá, the national capital.

According to a press release issued by Major General Guillermo Quiñónez, commander of the Fourth Division of the National Army, headquartered in Villavicencio, Sergeant Albeiro Otálvaro and Fanny Estela Lozano, both from the Arauca-based Brigade 18 of the National Army, were captured at the scene of the crime and turned over to the Office of the Prosecutor General (Fiscalía General de la Nación).

The motives for the journalist's murder are unknown. Aside from running La Voz del Cinaruco radio station, Muñoz Tello, 68, had several businesses and had been connected to political campaigns in the past. Although he was prominent in the region for his outstanding journalism, he was no longer the host of any of the radio station's public affairs or news programmes.

La Voz del Cinaruco, one of the best-known radio stations in the city of Arauca, had been under the interior ministry's special programme to protect journalists. Other journalists in the city have been accompanied by police during their journeys.

This is not the first murder of an Araucan journalist. In 2002, Meridiano 70 radio station director Efraín Varela was murdered. Recently a paramilitary chief confessed to having perpetrated the crime (see IFEX alerts of 7 June 2007, 3 and 2 July 2002). In 2003, Varela's replacement as news chief, Luis Eduardo Alfonso, was also murdered (see alerts of 5 May, 25 and 19 March 2003 and 4 July 2002).

In 2002 and 2003, 26 journalists received threats and another four were kidnapped in Arauca, which led to the exodus of another 17 journalists to cities elsewhere in Colombia. In 2005, another journalist had to go into exile. In early 2007 in Villavicencio there was an attempt on the life of a journalist who had been driven out of the Arauca department by threats; he was unscathed.

FLIP expresses its support for La Voz del Cinaruco's staff and the journalist's family and urges the authorities to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice. FLIP will continue to investigate this case to determine if the murder was related to Muñoz Tello's work as a journalist.

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