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Journalist assassinated in Arboletes, Antioquia

(FLIP/IFEX) - FLIP condemns the assassination of journalist Luis Eduardo Gómez on 30 June 2011 in the municipality of Arboletes, in the Urabá region, on the border with the department of Córdoba. The journalist was on his way home when two unidentified men approached and shot him several times. The journalist's assailants then fled on a motorcycle.

Gómez was 70 years old and worked as an independent journalist for several government publications as well as newspapers such as "El Heraldo de Urabá" and "Urabá al Día". Recently he covered topics relating to tourism and the environment. FLIP had not received any reports of threats against him. In addition to his journalism work, Gómez was a prosecutorial witness in parapolitics cases, involving links between politicians and paramilitary groups, in the region and his son was assassinated two years ago in circumstances that have not been clarified by the authorities. The journalist had taken on the investigation into his son's death on a personal level and was calling on the authorities to renew their efforts.

A local journalist, who preferred to remain anonymous, told FLIP that "Luis Eduardo was a very critical independent journalist. He investigated the management of municipal resources for many years, in addition to the death of his son." The former mayor of Arboletes, Gustavo Germán Guerra, was captured within the scope of the parapolitics scandal in March 2010.

The Arboletes secretary of government, Esteban Rebolledo, said, "We don't know the motive behind Gómez's assassination. A special group of investigators is taking on the case (. . .) Arboletes was a tranquil town and we don't understand what is happening. This is the second assassination in 72 hours."

In the northern part of Urabá paramilitary groups in the past operated under the command of a man known as "El Alemán". When "El Alemán" demobilised, paramilitary personnel who refused to demobilise formed criminal gangs that continue to operate in the area. Another journalist who also preferred to remain anonymous told FLIP, "The violence in Córdoba is overflowing. People are very concerned. These gangs aren't under anybody's command, they're doing whatever they want. They kill if any information they don't like is made public. It's difficult to simply record an interview. Nobody wants to talk because they're afraid. We have to watch what we say."

The assassination of Gómez took place just three days after the murder of José Vicente Botero, an Arboletes community leader who had received threats from paramilitary group members. Interestingly, Botero and Gómez were both witnesses in the parapolitics scandal.

FLIP condemns Gómez's assassination and is concerned about the violence in Urabá and the fact that journalists in the area are being forced to "self censor". The organisation calls on the police and Prosecutor's Office to carry out a prompt and thorough investigation in the case in order to identify those responsible for the murder and bring them to justice. In addition, FLIP expresses its solidarity with the journalists in Urabá and encourages them to report all threats against them.
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