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Radio reporter gunned down in Cauca department

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to shed all possible light on the murder of José Everardo Aguilar, a reporter for the privately-owned regional radio stations Radio Super and Bolívar Estéreo, who was gunned down in his home in El Bordo, a town in the south-western department of Cauca, on 24 April 2009.

"We offer our most sincere condolences to Everardo's family," Reporters Without Borders said. "The motive has yet to be established but the police should give priority to the possibility that it was linked to his work as he had accused certain local authorities of corruption. The investigation should also aim to explain why the departmental government failed to react to the threats he had received."

The gunman, an apparent contract killer, entered Everardo's home on the evening of 24 April on the pretext of bringing him information and photos. Once inside, he shot Everardo three times, killing him instantly.

Very popular in the Cauca region, Everardo had often talked on the air about alleged corruption cases involving the departmental government. One of his sons told journalists that he had received threats, but the local authorities denied knowing anything about them.

President Alvaro Uribe offered a reward of 50 million pesos (approx. 16, 300 euros) to anyone who helps to track down the murderer. Reporters Without Borders cautions against any recourse to "parallel justice" in regions where gun law prevails.

Everardo's murder coincided with two other serious cases of violence against journalists in a part of the country that is prey to drug traffickers and armed groups. Gustavo Alvarez Gardeazabal, a journalist for the programme "La Luciérnaga" on the privately-owned national radio station Caracol Radio, was kidnapped by six gunmen at his home in Tulúa (in the western department of Valle del Cauca) on 24 April and, under threat, was forced to hand over recordings, archives and computer material.

A surveillance camera recorded the presence of an army vehicle near the scene of the kidnapping. "The military high command and the defence ministry must comply with all requests from the judicial officials investigating this case," Reporters Without Borders said.

On 25 April, a gunman shot and wounded Hugo Cuartas as he left the local TV station where he was presenting a musical programme in the west central town of Mañizales, Agence France-Presse reported. He underwent an operation for the gunshot injury he received to his arm. The motive for the attack remains unknown.

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