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Attempted kidnapping of Tolima journalist's daughter in Bogotá; radio station director in Tolima receives death threat

(IFJ/IFEX) - Two men tried to kidnap Nancy Beatriz Cárdenas, daughter of journalist Pedro Antonio Cárdenas, the director of "La Verdad", on 24 October 2007 in southern Bogotá, the Colombian capital. "La Verdad" is a magazine based in the city of Honda, Tolima department, in south-central Colombia. In a separate development, another journalist, José Joaquín Chávez, director of radio station Acción F.M. Estéreo, has been receiving death threats since 18 October, in Anzoátegui, also located in the department of Tolima.

On 24 October, at 7:20 a.m. (local time), when Nancy Beatriz Cárdenas was walking along 46 South Street toward Caracas Avenue, the capital's main throughfare, on her way to work, two heavy-set men stopped her, grabbed her by the arms and tried to drag her away, saying, "come with us." The young woman, 25, struggled, and a neighbour promptly intervened, hitting the assailants, and Cárdenas managed to escape. She took refuge in the Santa Lucia station of Bogotá's metro system, from which she saw one of the men wiping blood off his face, before she took a bus out of the area.

On 11 September, her father, Pedro Antonio Cárdenas, had received an anonymous call to his cell phone warning him "expect a little gift, buddy." The following day, he received another call; an hour later, a messenger arrived with a bouquet of flowers with an attached card that read, "for the Cárdenas Beltrán family. Sincere condolences for the novena."

In a separate development, José Joaquín Chávez, director of Acción F.M. Estéreo radio station, which is based in Anzoátegui, Tolima, and who is also the correspondent for "La Voz de Tolima" in the war-torn northern area of Tolima, has received several death threats since October 18. On that day, he interviewed Orlando Cabrero, regional coordinator of the national president's programme Families in Action (Familias en Acción), which provides subsidies for education or food, regarding alleged irregularities in its administration.

Thirty seconds after finishing the interview Chávez received the first threat: "Close the station or you'll die". Since then, he has received innumerable calls and text messages of a similar nature, also warning him that in all probability he would not be able to vote in the municipal elections scheduled to take place throughout Colombia on 28 October.

"We are overwhelmed by the avalanche of attacks on journalists. In only three days, two colleagues had to leave the country, two others have been attacked in order to prevent them from carrying out their work, three have received death threats and now, the daughter of another colleague has nearly been kidnapped," commented Eduardo Márquez, director of IFJ Colombia's Solidarity Centre (CESO-IFJ Colombia) and also President of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas (FECOLPER). "We call on the authorities to protect Pedro Antonio's daughter, since he has already suffered the rigours of exile for his work, and to protect José Joaquín, who works in a particularly violent area." (For further information on previous threats and the attempted kidnapping of Pedro Antonio Cárdenas, see IFEX alerts of 18 and 17 May 2006, and 18 March 2003).

Márquez added: "We believe that the threats against Pedro Antonio Cárdenas are coming from a mafia that controls the sale of stolen cell phones in Bogotá and networks of drug traffickers. They want to prevent the publication of a journalistic investigation in 'La Verdad'. To those criminals, we say that our colleague has desisted in publishing it, but that we want to warn them that if they commit any other act of aggression against him or any member of his family, several copies of the report, which are currently in sealed envelopes, will be opened and their contents published in national and international media outlets."

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