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Community radio station journalist threatened in Coveñas; IFJ concerned about authorities' lack of action

(CESO-IFJ/IFEX) - On 6 November 2007, at 10:30 a.m. (local time), after she finished her programme on Sensación Estéreo community radio station, journalist Olga Bru received two threatening phone calls warning her she would be sorry if she stayed in the Caribbean coastal town of Coveñas, located in the department of Sucre.

This is not the first time Bru has been threatened. In October 2006, when working as a reporter for "El Meridiano de Sucre" newspaper, various calls to both her cell phone and her land line, as well as a "condolences" message (commonly understood to be a death threat) sent to the newspaper's headquarters, forced her to leave Sincelejo, the capital of the Sucre department (see IFEX alert of 17 November 2006).

Since then, she has been working in the port city of Coveñas, but began receiving threats again, a little over two months ago, this time death threats in her personal mail. Finally, on 7 November, she received two calls from the same public cell phone. The first told her, "Get out of Coveñas, or you'll get it." The second said, "Supporting Sergio Tapia for mayor was a mistake that may cost you your life. Leave town!"

Bru was press advisor for Tapia, now mayor-elect, during his campaign. As well, on her radio programme she interviewed various other candidates, asking several of them about their alleged links to criminal groups.

Coveñas was one of the 44 municipalities where there were violent attacks on the public registrar's office (Registraduría) or the ballot boxes were burned, when the results of the elections became known, in what has become known as the "sore losers' syndrome", a phenomenon not seen in Colombia since the Liberal-Conservative civil war of the 1950s, in which at least 200,000 people lost their lives.

Bru commented to the IFJ's Solidarity Centre (CESO-IFJ), "I've been the target of threats, repeated surveillance, smears and stigmatization of my work for 11 years now, without the security authorities managing to determine the source. I'm grateful for the security measures the local police station and the Tolú office of the national police's intelligence service (SIJIN) have taken on my behalf, but I still feel completely unprotected."

Eduardo Márquez, who is both the executive director of CESO-IFJ and also the president of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER), comments, "the state's apathy regarding Olga's security has been evident since the day we presented her case to the Ministry of the Interior's Committee for the Protection of Journalists, last year. And, as if there were a conspiracy to favour those attacking journalists, she was not able to file a complaint because the local office of the Prosecutor General's Technical Investigations Body (Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación de la Fiscalía) passed her on to the SIJIN, who told her that the person who handles the complaints was out of town. Olga has been without protection since 28 October and no one is taking responsibility for her safety."

FECOLPER represents over 1000 journalists in 18 departments in Colombia. IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 116 countries.

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