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Community radio journalist in Sabanalarga warned of murder plot against him

(FLIP/IPYS/IFEX) - On 21 September 2007, journalist Geovanny Álvarez Castro, co-director and host of the programme "La Verdad" on the community-based radio station 101.6 FM in Sabanalarga, Atlántico department, in northern Colombia, was informed by police that an attempt on his life was imminent.

According to the information received by Álvarez Castro from Lieutenant José Sánchez Vergel, commander of the SIJIN (national police intelligence service) in Sabanalarga, the assassination of the journalist was to be carried out by Narciso Cabarcas, known as "El Negro".

Although Álvarez Castro has stated that he has not received any threats, he does not rule out that the murder plan may be related to allegations of municipal corruption that he has made in recent broadcasts.

From the moment his situation became known, Álvarez Castro received the support of the governor of Atlántico, Carlos Rodado Noriega, and the department's police commander, General Jairo Delgado Mora, who appointed him a permanent bodyguard and ordered an investigation into the case. FLIP and IPYS attempted without success to contact General Delgado Mora to confirm this information.

"La Verdad" has a feature called "Consejos Comunitarios" on Fridays, during which different neighbourhoods are visited by the police so that the complaints and needs of the community can be transmitted live to the relevant authorities.

In 2004, the radio station was burnt down after it reported the fictitious purchase of computers for 400 million pesos (approx. US$180,000) by the Sabanalarga city hall.The computers took a long time to arrive to the municipality, and when they did they were damaged and obsolete. A man known as "El Huella" was detained on suspicion of burning down the station. He was released and then murdered a few days before he was due to give testimony.

FLIP and IPYS are concerned about this new attack on the press, which takes place during the election campaign, and requests that local and departmental authorities act quickly to determine the masterminds of the murder plot against Álvarez Castro.

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