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Journalist forced to leave country due to threats

(FLIP/IFEX) - 23 August 2011 - Mary Luz Avendaño, a correspondent for the "El Espectador" newspaper in Medellín, Antioquia department, recently decided to leave Colombia due to the threats and intimidation tactics to which she was being subjected.

FLIP is concerned over the press freedom situation in the department of Antioquia, especially in the municipalities of Medellín, Guarne, Tarazá, Caucacia, Dabeiba, Arboletes and Apartadó, where, to date in 2011, the organisation has documented one assassination, five threats and one journalist shot while carrying out his work.

On 22 June, one of Avendaño's sources reported having received a telephone call in which the caller gave instructions to tell the journalist to stop publishing nonsense if she "didn't want to win the grand prize." The caller referred to articles the journalist had written about conflicts between groups of drug traffickers in Medellín and the possible complicity of the security forces.

A few days after the 22 June threat, another telephone call was received at the "El Espectador" office in Medellín asking for personal information about Avendaño, including where she lived.

As a result of the threats, the commander of the Medellín police force implemented security measures for the journalist. However, information from both intelligence sources and the drug traffickers themselves indicated that Avendaño's safety continued to be at risk.

With the help of several national and international human rights and press freedom organisations, Avendaño has fled the country for an indefinite period of time.

Avendaño has worked for several media outlets, always covering issues related to human rights, Colombia's armed conflict and drug trafficking.

FLIP expresses its solidarity with Avendaño and her family in this difficult situation. At the same time the organisation would like to highlight the police's cooperation in attempting to ensure the journalist's safety, and calls on the Public Prosecutor's Office to move forward in the investigation into Avendaño's case in order to bring those responsible for the threats to justice.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)
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