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Notice containing death threat against journalists distributed in Cartago, Valle del Cauca

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 4 February 2011, a notice containing a death threat against ten people was distributed in Cartago, in the department of Valle del Cauca. Among those threatened were journalists Luis Fernando Gil, of the "Hora 13" programme broadcast by the local CNC television station, Raúl Parra, director of the "La Hoja de Parra" publication, and Héctor Fabio García, who works on several different programmes for the Cartago Estéreo radio station.

In the notice, which is believed to have originated from the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia), individuals who are part of the local human rights committee and other community leaders were declared "military targets". The notice went on to put a price on the head of the each of the named individuals and called for "collaborators" to "do their part."

Gil told FLIP that there is a long history of such threats being issued via such notices, all which have gone unpunished. He also said, "These notices always come after we have met with local officials, or when we cover stories about labour union actions." Gil, for whom a protection plan was put in place by the Ministry of the Interior, says he fears for his family following the threats and that some of the other individuals who were threatened are thinking about leaving the city.

The individuals mentioned in the notice have said that the local police commander, Jadio Guillermo Lora, has been notified and that he has assured them that a prompt investigation into the matter will be conducted.

Sources in the department of Valle del Cauca consider the situation in Cartago to be very serious since the city has major security issues due to the presence of drug-trafficking groups. In the last six years, two journalists have been killed in the municipality.

The notice issued on 4 February is one in a series of such actions, including similar threats that were distributed in February 2010 and in March, July and October 2009. In the previous cases, the notices mentioned the same journalists.

Taking into account the situation of journalists in Valle del Cauca, especially in Cartago, in March of 2010 a regulatory and risk assessment committee was formed in the region. The committee put forward several protective measures, some of which have not been implemented. In addition, there have not been significant advances in the investigations into the threats.

FLIP condemns these threats and is concerned for the safety of journalists in Cartago. The organisation calls on the National Police and Ministry of the Interior to provide the necessary protective measures for the threatened journalists and urges the authorities to investigate and bring to justice those who are behind these actions. FLIP notes that it is worrisome that, to date, there have not been significant advances in previous investigations into threats of this nature.

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