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Television journalist ordered to broadcast story or be killed

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 13 August 2007, Juan Pablo Monsalve, a member of a team of journalists working with the RCN Television programme "La Noche", received three telephone calls in which he was told to broadcast a particular story or be killed. The threats relate to a story under investigation by the programme regarding a case of alleged corruption in Cantagallos, a town in southern Bolívar department.

On 15 July, days after receiving an initial tip about the story from Cantagallos councillor Saúl Argumedo, "La Noche" sent an investigative team, including Monsalve, to the town. The case implicated the mayor of the town, César Augusto Gil, in the alleged mismanagement of resource extraction royalties received and municipal contracts. The journalist interviewed the mayor, a few other officials and some residents of the town, then returned to Bogotá.

Almost one month later, the programme had not aired anything on the story and Monsalve received the threatening calls. In the first two calls, a man insulted him and asked him how much he had been paid by the mayor to hold back the story. In the third call, another man, claiming to be "José Bernabé" of a Bolívar-based paramilitary group (Autodefensas del Bloque Sur de Bolívar), told the journalist: "The order is that you broadcast the Cantagallos story. Otherwise, you will face the consequences. I know your cell number and other things about you. We'll be watching."

Councillor Argumedo, of the political party Convergencia Ciudadana, laments the situation and told FLIP: "These threats could be a tactic by those being accused, to stigmatise and discredit those of us making the accusations against them." His party has announced that it will be releasing a statement condemning the threats.

The directors of "La Noche" and the television station have expressed their support for the journalist and claimed responsibility for editorial decisions about programme content. They stated that they would not bend to pressure in deciding whether to broadcast any given story.

FLIP condemns the threats against Monsalve and urges the authorities to protect the journalist and his family. FLIP also asks the Prosecutor General's Office to investigate the case so as to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

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