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Journalist assaulted in Bogotá, threatened with murder, obliged to cease distributing magazine in Honda

(IFJ/IFEX) - On 14 June 2008, at 2:20 p.m. (local time) in the national capital, Bogotá, journalist Pedro Antonio Cárdenas was stopped by two men travelling on a motorcycle. After pointing a revolver at him, they threw him to the ground and beat him, ordering him to stop circulating his magazine in the city of Honda, in Tolima department. The incident took place downtown, half a block from a mobile police station, immediately after the government-appointed bodyguards who have been protecting him for several months left him temporarily.

"You shit, the only reason I'm not killing you is because that wasn't what they ordered us to do. I'm here to remind you that the magazine cannot circulate in Honda," said one of his assailants, while pointing a 38-calibre revolver at Cárdenas's head after kicking him in the face several times.

Cárdenas had just returned from a trip through several municipalities where he had been selling copies of "La Verdad" magazine, of which is he the director, editor and distributor. His bodyguards had asked permission to go to their homes to pick up clothing to accompany him on a trip to take the magazine to Honda, just prior to when the assault occurred. Due to the incident, "La Verdad" was not distributed in Honda.

As soon as the thugs left the scene, departing on a white motorcycle, Cárdenas took refuge in a police station, from which he was collected by Eduardo Márquez, director of the IFJ Solidarity Centre in Colombia and President of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas, FECOLPER), who saw the bruises on Cárdenas's face and moved him to a secure place.

In a special insert in "La Verdad"'s most recent edition, Cárdenas had reported on the alleged ties and business dealings of various current and former Honda city councillors with "El Costeño", the commander of the Omar Izasa front of Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia del Magdalena Medio, a paramilitary group operating in the valley surrounding the middle section of the Magdalena River, which courses through central Colombia to the Caribbean coast. According to Cárdenas, "El Costeño" was the commander who had ordered Cárdenas's 12 June 2003 kidnapping. Thanks to prompt action by the police, Cárdenas was rescued outside of Honda and his captors detained.

Márquez thanked the police in Bogotá for responding to IFJ's call and for strengthening measures to protect Cárdenas. Nevertheless, he noted that the IFJ is alarmed by this attack, because it demonstrates that Cárdenas is still being followed, and that his assailants are merely waiting for an opportunity to take action against him.

Márquez also emphasised that these kinds of actions, aside from frightening the journalist and his family, have left citizens, once again, without information that would be of interest to them, only days after the "para-politics" scandal led to four former mayors from the northern part of Tolima department being jailed for their paramilitary ties. "Every time a journalist is followed and threatened, the public loses, because, as in this case, the public will remain at the mercy of unscrupulous politicians that have an armed wing.

FECOLPER represents over 1100 journalists in 19 departments throughout Colombia. IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

Updates the Cárdenas case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87360

For further information on Cárdenas's 2003 kidnapping, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/33807

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