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Radio journalists in Arauca must read announcement on air or become military targets, FARC threatens

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 8 August 2007, various broadcast media outlets in the north-eastern department of Arauca found a pamphlet from the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) awaiting them at their offices. The pamphlet announced the initiation of an "armed stoppage" ("paro armado") in the department, and warned journalists that they must read the announcement on air or be considered military targets of the FARC.

Sarare Estéreo, a radio station in Saravena; La Voz del Cinaruco, affiliated with Caracol Radio; La Voz del Río Arauca, affiliated with RCN, and Meridiano 70 - the latter three stations located in Arauca city - received the pamphlet on the night of 7 August.

The pamphlet was signed by the "Guadalupe Salcedo" Eastern bloc of the FARC. It also announced the group's intention to interrupt all vehicular traffic on departmental highways. The pamphlet demands that the announcement be read three times on news programmes over the course of two days.

Management and journalists of Sarare Estéreo expressed fears about the pamphlet, and stated that they had received five telephone calls on 8 August, apparently from members of the FARC, pressuring them to read the text on air.

Major Carlos Alberto Cabezas, chief of the Saravena police, stated that extraordinary security measures were being taken throughout the department, in particular to ensure the safety of the radio station and its employees.

In Arauca city, journalists also expressed their concerns over the pamphlet, observing that it signified a further deterioration in safety for journalists in the department. They are waiting to see what measures will be taken to protect them. FLIP attempted without success to communicate with the Arauca police chief, Colonel Rodrigo Palacios.

In February, Sarare Estéreo journalists received a similar pamphlet signed by the same group, demanding the resignation of the governors, mayors, and parliamentarians in the departments of Arauca, Casanare and Boyacá. That statement also demanded the announcement be read on air, threatening the same consequences in the event of non-compliance.

FLIP expresses its concern over this threat, which comes just as local election campaigns are beginning; FLIP suspects the threat may be designed to influence the outcome of the electoral process. FLIP also urges the authorities to provide protection to the journalists of Arauca and Saravena so they may continue to work in their profession.

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