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Government implicated in phone-tapping scandal as pressure on media continues

(RSF/IFEX) - On 22 February 2010, the attorney-general's office directly implicated four senior intelligence officials and the secretary-general of the president's office, Bernardo Moreno, in the phone-tapping of journalists and other prominent government critics, a scandal that was first exposed in early 2009.

This occurred during the trial of Jorge Noguera, the former head of the intelligence agency known as the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), who is accused of homicide and "links to paramilitaries." The hearing was also the stage for a damning accusation levelled against the DAS itself.

"The DAS was the source of the leaflets and pamphlets targeting journalists, unionists and NGOs," former counter-intelligence chief Jorge Lagos said, referring to campaigns to discredit journalists and others by means of falsified communiqués and videos said to have been issued by the FARC guerrillas.

Speaking at his trial on 22 February, Noguera also acknowledged for the first time that he passed the results of the phone-tapping to the president's office. This will increase pressure on the government, which until now has been sticking by its denials of any role in the phone-tap scandal. (See also a Spanish-language video of former DAS secretary-general Gian Carlo Auque testifying at the trial: http://es.justin.tv/ddhh_colombia#r=VP0b4lI~ ).

These allegations, implicating the highest level of the government in extremely serious violations of freedom of opinion and freedom of information, are likely to have a major impact on the presidential elections scheduled for 30 May, in which the country is still waiting to find out whether President Álvaro Uribe will run for a third term.

People are meanwhile wondering whether the decision by the owners of the weekly "Cambio" to fire its directors, Rodrigo Pardo and María Elvira, and scale back its activities was due solely to economic imperatives.

It was "Cambio" which in 2009 revealed the organised crime links of Guillermo Valencia Cossio, the former public prosecutor in Medellín (Uribe's home town) and the negotiations between Washington and Bogotá for the installation of seven US military bases in Colombia.

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