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Journalists in Arauca receive threats while covering "March for Liberty"

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 20 July 2008, several journalists who were covering a protest against kidnappings, called the "March for Liberty", in the city of Arauca and in Saravena municipality, Arauca department, received threatening messages, presumed to be from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) Tenth Front. (The FARC is Colombia's largest guerrilla group.)

The first threat was received on journalist Carmen Rosa Pabón's cell phone. Pabón is the director of the "Noticias Caracol" news programme broadcast on La Voz de Cinaruco radio station. The text message received on Pabón's phone warned, "Dear journalists, the Tenth Front is here. Be careful." Pabón believes that the threat could be related to the coverage of the nation-wide march. She told FLIP, "We began broadcasting special reports starting at 8:00 a.m. (local time) and we invited people to participate in the march. Along with other journalists, we decided to wear clothing in yellow, blue and red, the colours of the national flag. None of us wore or displayed any slogans alluding to the march."

At about 11:30 a.m., Phillip Moreno, a correspondent for RCN Television in Arauca, received the following message, "The Tenth Front is here. Be careful. FARC Tenth Front." Moreno said that he was covering the march as he had been instructed to do by his office in the capital, Bogotá. "We weren't displaying anything to do with the march, I was just wearing my RCN vest. I don't understand why I received this message," he said.

In the municipality of Saravena, journalists from the Sarare Estéreo community radio station and a correspondent for La Voz del Cinaruco received the same message. Sarare Estéreo's station manager, Ella Patricia Ardila, could not identify a clear link between the threat the radio station received and the march. "In Saravena, the march wasn't as big as in the rest of the country. Here, it was more about Independence Day, the celebration of the country, than about the freeing of those who have been kidnapped," Ardila said.

The national police commander in Arauca, Colonel Alberto Ortiz Quintero, told FLIP that he has no official knowledge of the threats against the journalists. "I heard a comment about them, but there was no information about whether complaints have been filed with the National Police", Ortiz said, noting that he is willing to provide the journalists with any security measures they may need.

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