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JOURNALIST KILLED AMID FLOOD OF THREATS AGAINST MEDIA

A radio journalist was killed point blank in central Colombia on the country's Day of the Journalist, report the Solidarity Centre of the International Federation of Journalists in Colombia (CESO-IFJ), the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) and other IFEX members.

On 9 February, journalist Manuel Arturo Macías Cerrera was shot in the head while heading home in Algeciras, a town in the department of Huila in central Colombia. According to FLIP, his 10-year-old son witnessed the shooting.

As well as directing the daily programme "Gente Nueva", broadcast daily by Sur radio station in Neiva, the capital of Huila, Macías Cerrera was a founding member of the Journalists' Association of Huila (ASPEHU) and an affiliate of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER).

Macías Cerrera had also been elected a town councillor, and took office on 1 January as the only opposition councillor in Algeciras.

Eduardo Márquez, FECOLPER president and director of CESO-IFJ, commented, "The cowards who shot our colleague point blank were sending us a death message when we were celebrating Colombia's Day of the Journalist. We will double our efforts to ensure our safety throughout the country, but also be unceasingly alert in keeping an eye on the intolerant, be they corrupt politicians, paramilitary groups, guerrillas, corrupt state agents or organised crime groups."

These "parallel powers" have been responsible for a recent spate of death threats to Colombian journalists across the country.

On 4 February, the day that local and international protests against the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were held, the community-based radio station Acción Estéreo in the department of Tolima was forced to shut down. The station manager said he was made to leave the area after receiving death threats from FARC, following the broadcast of an army ad that called on illegal armed groups to demobilise, reports CESO-FIJ.

Meanwhile, Juan Gossaín, the news director of the privately-owned national radio station RCN in the northern city of Cartagena, was warned that he and all of RCN's branches would be the target of bombings if RCN attended the protests, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In another incident, the staff of "El Meridiano de Córdoba" newspaper, which is distributed along Colombia's northern coast, have been receiving death threats for publishing a story exposing government corruption in a business deal for a regional water distribution system, report FLIP and the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS).

In FLIP's just launched report on the press freedom situation in Colombia in 2007, more than half of the 162 violations recorded were in the form of threats received by journalists relating to their work. Some of the threats were so serious that 16 journalists felt obliged to leave their homes for their own safety.

In most cases, the perpetrators of the violations remain unknown. Of those identified, paramilitary organisations account for about 30 percent of all violations - despite 2007 being the fourth year of demobilisation efforts, and the second year of the "Justice and Peace" process, where former paramilitaries receive substantial sentence reductions in exchange for confessing their crimes and demobilising.

Public officials and members of the security forces accounted for a "worrisome" 21 percent of the violations.

FLIP's full report (in Spanish only) is available at:
http://www.flip.org.co/veralerta.php?idAlerta=277
An English summary can be found here: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90664/

Visit these links on Macías Cerrera:
- CESO-IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/3yb39w
- FLIP: http://www.flip.org.co/veralerta.php?idAlerta=278
- IPYS: http://www.ipys.org/alertas/atentado.php?id=1395
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25673
Also see the IFEX Colombia page for alerts on the recent death threats:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/133/
(12 February 2008)

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