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Critical radio journalist receives death threat in Cartagena

(CESO-IFJ/IFEX) - "If you don't shut up, we'll kill you!" was the telephoned message journalist Alberto Borda Martelo received on 14 February 2008 at 6:17 p.m. (local time) in the city of Cartagena. The caller mentioned a series of criticisms the journalist had made on irregularities in the previous municipal government, especially in the building of hospitals.

Borda Martelo, a member of a Colombian Federation of Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas, FECOLPER) affiliated organisation in Bolívar department, is the producer and host of "Combate" news programme, broadcast every morning on the Voz de las Antillas radio station, a member of the Todelar radio network. A Cartagena-based citizens' monitoring group - the Veeduría Ciudadana Cartagena - conducted exhaustive monitoring of the administration of Nicolás Cure Vergara, the city's mayor until 31 December 2007; Borda Martelo reported extensively on the group's findings.

The journalist also brought to light an apparent irregularity in the building of two hospitals, located in the city's Carapote and Pozón sectors, which, as the journalist told the IFJ's Solidarity Centre (CESO-IFJ), "have different layouts, structures, sizes and budgets, but yet the same building cost!"

This is not the first time Borda Martelo has been threatened. In 2007 he also received threatening telephone calls after repeated critical coverage of apparent administrative corruption during the previous two years, including "in payments made for contracts never fulfilled, the purchase of cars and apartments from former municipal officials, the purchase of security companies and the management of the contracts for the building of the two hospitals." Due to the threats, he was being protected by the police, which at that time determined that one of the calls was made from a public telephone at an emergency services centre in the El Socorro neighbourhood.

"The corrupt have become the worst predators of working journalists in Colombia," commented Eduardo Márquez, executive director of CESO-IFJ and also FECOLPER's president. He noted that Cartagena is one of the poorest cities in the country, due to such corruption.

FECOLPER represents over 1000 journalists in 18 departments of Colombia. IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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