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Two journalists receive death threats

(FLIP/IFEX) - Two journalists, Jazmín Romero, a reporter for the "Vanguardia Liberal" newspaper, and Mario Ruiz, of the local Pase TV television station, were recently threatened in the municipality of Socorro, Santander, in northeastern Colombia.

The threats against Romero took place on 13 November 2008 when she received a call on her mobile phone from an unidentified individual who said, "For a year now we have been telling you (. . .) We give you eight days to get out of Socorro. We know where your family is. Do you love your daughter very much? We know where she goes to school."

On 14 November, the same thing happened. Romero received a similar telephone call from a different person. The caller repeated the death threats and said that she had seven days to leave the city.

This is not the first time that Romero has been threatened. In October 2007, in the middle of an election campaign, she received several warnings and left the city for a time as a result. The more recent threats do not appear to be linked to the warnings Romero received in 2007. The latest threats could be connected to investigations she carried out to get a demobilised member of a paramilitary group to give her his version of a story which may have implicated local people in criminal activities. The editors of "Vanguardia Liberal" have expressed their concern over Romero's situation, especially as she was forced to leave Socorro because of the threats.

In a separate incident, journalist Mario Ruiz also received death threats after leading a forum that encouraged a coalition of local media outlets to monitor tenders that the Socorro mayor's office was receiving for the liquidation of a municipally owned company.

The first warning that Ruiz received was by telephone on 4 October 2008. The caller said, "Mario, S.O.B., let us do our work," and warned him that his life is in danger. Later, on the exterior walls of his house there appeared threats with messages similar to those received in the telephone call.

FLIP expresses its concern over these new attacks on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. FLIP urges the Federal Attorney General's Office (Fiscalía General de la Nación) to quickly investigate the origin of these threats. As well, FLIP asks the police to implement safety measures for the journalists.

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