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Journalist José Granados Fernández receives death threats after denouncing corruption

(FLIP/IFEX) - José Granados Fernández, the editor of the "El Heraldo" newspaper's judicial and investigations section, in Barranquilla, Atlántico department, on Colombia's northern coast, has said that he received death threats on 2 April 2009.

According to Granados, an unidentified caller phoned the daily's offices and told a female employee, "Tell Granados to be careful because we want to 'break' (assassinate) him for the story about the CRA." Over several months, the newspaper has been denouncing corruption in the Atlántico Autonomous Regional Corporation (Corporación Autónoma Regional del Atlántico, CRA), which is the body responsible for environmental issues in Atlántico.

Given the recent history of the CRA, the threat was considered by both the newspaper and Atlántico authorities to be very serious. The CRA is in the midst of a highly controversial dispute after its director, Rafael Pérez Jubiz, stepped down from his position. At the end of 2008, Pérez was suspended on orders from the District Attorney's Office and was later detained, accused of being involved in irregularities relating to how a contract for planting trees was carried out in several municipalities. The byline for several of the articles about the CRA was in the name of the 48-year-old Granados, who has been a print and radio journalist for 29 years.

FLIP sources said that politicians and paramilitary groups that operate in the area are involved in the corruption. On 2 April, the vice-minister for the environment, Claudia Mora, said that another series of irregularities had been detected.

Atlántico Governor Eduardo Verano said that the president of the CRA's board of directors and members of the Atlántico department security forces went to the "El Heraldo" offices and initiated an investigation into the threats. He also said that orders had been given for the journalist to be provided with protection.

FLIP is concerned about the threats against Granados, which the organisation considers to be an attempt to intimidate not just the journalist himself, but also the newspaper and other journalists who are investigating the irregularities within the CRA. FLIP calls on the National Attorney General's Office to investigate and punish those responsible for the threats and also urges the authorities to provide the journalist and the newspaper with protection.

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