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Editor receives death threats, newspaper's offices attacked by protestors in Santa Marta

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 11 October 2007, a group of students from Santa Marta University, protesting a court ruling against the university's former rector, attacked the offices of the newspaper "Hoy Diario del Magdalena". They stoned the building and wrote denunciatory graffiti on its walls. Later, the editor of the newspaper, Ulilo Acevedo Silva, received a new death threat.

The students marched on the afternoon of 11 October, denouncing the eight-year and four-month sentence handed down to former university rector Carlos Eduardo Caicedo. As they marched, they shouted out condemnations of local media outlets, accusing them of having libeled the former rector in their coverage of his case.

The same day, relatives of Acevedo received death threats directed against the editor, who was out of town that day.

The newspaper's editor-in-chief, Hugo Penso, told FLIP that the attack on the newspaper's offices began at 6:00 p.m. (local time) and lasted 45 minutes. "Most of the newspaper's staff members were trying to finalise that day's edition at the time, so they had to put up with the harassment."

One journalist told FLIP that the protests stemmed from critical reporting on the former rector's conduct.

In 2006, local media outlets published a series of reports that implicated Caicedo in various acts of corruption. On 23 August 2006, when Caicedo was detained by order of the Attorney General, media outlets were attacked, and students confronted and verbally assaulted various journalists covering the story. Were it not for the intervention of police, the situation likely would have deteriorated. Days before the confrontation, various journalists with the media outlets "Hoy Diario del Magdalena", "Radio Magdalena", "CM&" and "Noticias Uno" received threats.

FLIP condemns the renewed harassment and threats against "Hoy Diario del Magdalena" and its editor. It calls for the supporters of Caicedo to respect the work of journalists who were simply fulfilling their social duty by investigating and reporting on possible acts of corruption. FLIP also urges the authorities to investigate the source of the threats against Acevedo.

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