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"Noticias Uno" correspondents threatened in Medellín and Quibdó

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 17 and 18 October 2008, "Noticias Uno" correspondents Fernando Cifuentes and Leonardo Montoya, who are based in Medellín (Antioquia) and Quibdó (Chocó) respectively, received threatening telephone calls from lawyer Leonel Torres as a result of investigations the media outlet is conducting into allegations of irregularities in the lawyer's activities. Torres is the nephew of Édgar Ulises Torres, the president of the Chamber of Representatives' Accusations Commission (Comisión de Acusación de la Cámara de Representantes).

"Noticias Uno" managing editor Ignacio Gómez told FLIP that his media outlet has been conducting an investigation that casts unfavourable light on the lawyer as allegations of fraudulent activities involving the public treasury have arisen. Torres allegedly established claims against several public entities then charged them for compensation. The "Noticias Uno" investigations unit in the capital, Bogotá, has been in charge of reporting on the case and the correspondents in Medellín and Quibdó have provided information that was requested by the media outlet's personnel in the capital.

Cifuentes told FLIP that on 17 October he went to one of Torres' businesses to obtain statements regarding the investigation from the lawyer. Several of Torres' employees told the journalist that he would be arriving soon, but Cifuentes left after waiting for several hours. At about 8:30 p.m. (local time), however, Cifuentes received a call from Torres on his mobile phone. The lawyer told him in a threatening tone, "If you mess with me, you will have problems ( . . . ) If you are looking for me, you will find me." Montoya received a similar telephone call, with almost the exact same words at approximately 8:45 p.m. on the same day. The threatening telephone calls to both journalists were repeated the following day at about 3:00 p.m. "He told me once again that if I meddled in his affairs I would have to be careful," Montoya told FLIP. The journalists are concerned about the threatening telephone calls, saying, "One doesn't know what kind of a person he is or who he is associated with."

FLIP spoke to Torres to obtain his version of events. The lawyer said the he had never called the journalists, adding, "I just want to be left alone ( . . . ) when the journalist from Medellín called me I just told him that I didn't want to be interviewed." According to Torres, a "Noticias Uno" journalist from Bogotá called him on 18 October and was very rude. When Torres was asked to name the journalist, however, he refused to do so saying, "I don't want to get involved in a controversy." The lawyer went on to say that he has nothing to hide with respect to the investigations being conducted by "Noticias Uno".

FLIP has expressed its concern over the intimidating telephone calls that the "Noticias Uno" journalists have received and calls on the authorities to conduct an investigation into the threats. Incidents such as this inhibit investigative journalism and result in citizens being deprived of information that is of interest to them. On the other hand, FLIP invites Torres to express his dissatisfaction and opinions via appropriate channels and to refrain from acting in a manner that would hinder the work of journalists.

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