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New e-mail threat against journalists' association and four reporters

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 19 March 2011 FLIP was informed of a new threat that has been circulating via e-mail since 14 March. The message contains death threats directed at human rights defenders, NGOs - including the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER) - and four Colombian journalists.

The threatening note, which is signed by the central block of the "Águilas Negras" (Black Eagles), reads, "We continue to declare as military targets and intend to exterminate guerillas who hide behind the façade of NGOs and groups of displaced peoples and those that are helping them under the guise of human rights defenders. We will not rest until we see them dead".

This latest threat is aimed at Eduardo Márquez, president of FECOLPER; Hollman Morris, director of "Contravía"; Daniel Coronell, former director of Noticias Uno and current vice-president of the Univision news programme; Marcos Perales Mendoza, editor of "Periódico Portada" based in Bucaramanga, and journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, from Radio Nizkor.

In mid-February a similar message circulated, also signed by the Águilas Negras, which threatened FECOLPER, other organisations and the same four journalists. The new message alludes to the fact that the Attorney General's Office was informed about the previous threat: "You are thinking that because you reported it to the Attorney General's Office . . . you will be saved, we are going to start cleaning out 'Tequendama' [about 30 km southwest of Bogotá] . . . and this is only the beginning of the clean out of all the organisations that stand in our way (sic)".

Eduardo Márquez told FLIP that he is concerned about the message's reference to the reports filed with the Attorney General's Office especially because there has been little progress in the investigation of the original e-mail. Claudia Julieta Duque said she only heard about the latest threat on 19 March and that she believes members of the army are behind both messages, which she reported to the Attorney General's Office.

Journalist Marco Perales told FLIP that he has asked authorities for an investigation into the origin of the threats and for measures to be taken to guarantee that journalists can safely practice their profession.

FLIP tried to speak with the human rights unit at the Attorney General's Office, but was unsuccessful. Members of the police technological investigations unit and the Attorney General's Technical Investigation Team said they were not aware of the threats. Nevertheless, Luis Fernando Atuesta, head of information crimes for the National Police, said that he would put into motion the pertinent investigations once he had the necessary information from all the parties involved.

The threatening e-mail also mentioned human rights organisations such as the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento, Codhes) and the League of Internally Displaced Women (Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas).

During the last meeting of the Committee for the Regulation and Evaluation of Risk (Comité de Reglamentación y Evaluación de Riesgo, CRER) affecting journalists, held on 18 February, authorities were informed of the threats and the perceived level of risk the journalists are facing was raised. In early March, FLIP also met with Attorney General Vivian Morales, to express the organisation's concern over the lack of results in investigations of threats against journalists.

FLIP condemns the threats contained in the e-mail and voices its concern about the lack of reaction on the part of the National Police and the lack of progress in the investigation. FLIP calls on the Interior Ministry and the National Police to provide protection for the journalists and urges the Attorney General's Office to promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible for these threatening e-mail messages.

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