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Threatened journalist relinquishes government-sponsored body guards engaging in intelligence activities against her

(FLIP/IFEX) - Claudia Julieta Duque, freelance journalist and a member of the human rights organisation Equipo Nizkor, has relinquished the protection scheme granted her by the national government, due to constant mismanagement of its operation and the fact that her government-provided bodyguards' behaviour exacerbated her sense of vulnerability.

She took the decision after being made aware of internal reports her bodyguards had made to the Department for Administrative Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, DAS), reporting on her activities and making false accusations against her. In addition to this, there has also been a series of gaps and inadequacies in the protection afforded her, which Duque had reported which she was still under the protection scheme.

Duque began being covered by protection measures organised by the Ministry of the Interior in December 2003. She had been the target of repeated threats and had been followed by unidentified individuals since 2001, following her investigation of the 1999 murder of journalist Jaime Garzón, which she conducted together with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective, a prominent human rights group.

After beginning that investigation, she received telephone calls and messages threatening to kill her if she continued investigating Garzón's murder. As well, she noticed that strangers were circling her home and keeping under surveillance the places that she and her young daughter frequented. These incidents obliged her to go into exile several times. Ever since then, including recently, she has repeatedly been followed in a suspicious manner, threatened and the target of other intimidating actions, which she has brought to the attention of both the authorities and FLIP. She believes that state agents are behind these incidents. Her denunciations have not resulted in any improvement in her security situation.

The Ministry of the Interior's Human Rights Bureau has asked her to reconsider her decision. Duque refuses, saying that she cannot trust the government's protection measures, especially given the conduct of the DAS.

In response to FLIP's intervention on Duque's behalf, DAS sub-director Joaquín Polo stated: "It is not this institution's policy to conduct intelligence activities through bodyguards," and provided FLIP with a copy of DAS's regulations on the matter.

FLIP urges the government to provide Duque with protection measures that she can trust and that are appropriate for her level of risk, so that it might be feasible for her to reconsider her decision. FLIP also expresses its concern about the fact that people assigned to protect a journalist are carrying out intelligence activities against her, contrary to the natural function of protective services. FLIP asks the DAS and the police to not allow such activities and to investigate those responsible. FLIP also urges the Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalía) to ensure that the various threats and surveillance that Duque has reported are thoroughly investigated.

Updates the Duque case:

For further informacion on the Garzón case, see:

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