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Two radio stations in Arauca broadcast FARC pamphlet content, another refuses, following threats

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for Government to Protect Journalists Over Threats in Colombia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned a new campaign of intimidation by (armed groups) in Colombia who are threatening violence against radio stations that do not air their propaganda. The IFJ says the government must do more to protect journalists targeted by the group.

"Journalists are facing deadly violence in Colombia and the government must make good on its promises to protect them," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "While media are being bullied by armed groups to broadcast political messages with threats to the safety of employees press freedom cannot survive. The government must intervene urgently."

Last week, broadcast media outlets in Arauca were told by Front X of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an illegal armed organisation, to read a pamphlet about the organisation on the air or face being declared a military target.

The IFJ, which represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide, is supporting the Corporación de Periodistas de Arauca, the regional organisation of journalists, as well as the national union, the Federación Colombiana de Periodistas, in its fight against this intimidation.

"We call on the government to offer real protection to the journalists who stand up to (armed groups') intimidation," White said. "Journalists are often under pressure by one side or another in any conflict, but they must never become military targets."

International law recognises the civilian status of journalists in conflict areas and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 says that those responsible for killing journalists in a conflict situation may be prosecuted for war crimes.

After the threats, two radio stations in Arauca broadcast the contents of the pamphlet but they warned their audiences in advance that they were doing it after threats by the guerrilla group. But another journalist, Álvaro Pérez García, director of Meridiano 70 radio station, said he would not broadcast the pamphlet text and criticised its content. Two Meridiano 70 journalists have been killed in the last four years due to their work. Another station, Sararé Estéreo, received several phone calls from a man who identified himself as a FARC spokesperson and demanded a complete reading of the pamphlets or said that if the station does not read it, its reporters will have to "face the consequences."

"We vehemently condemn this authoritarian attack of the guerrilla against the free exercise of journalism," said Eduardo Márquez, President of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER) and director of the IFJ Solidarity Center in Colombia. "To the colleagues in Arauca, we assure them they are not alone: they can count on the support of our more than 1000 members throughout the country and the 600.000 members of the International Federation of Journalists in the world," Marquez said.

Click here to read statements from the Federación Colombiana de Periodistas: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/FELCOPAR090807.pdf and http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=5212&Language=EN

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