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Valledupar journalist warned of plan to attack her

(FLIP/IFEX) - The Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, FLIP) expresses its concern after journalist Ana María Ferrer was informed of a planned attack against her. The incident took place in Valledupar, the capital city of Cesar department.

On 29 September 2011, a man who identified himself as a member of the criminal gang Los Urabeños phoned local radio station Radio Guatapurí and said that he had been told to attack a number of people in the city, including Ferrer. The man said Ferrer was targeted because she had reported on the Urabeños gang in Valledupar. He indicated that he knew where Ferrer lived and expressed interest in disassociating himself from the gang.

Ferrer is a journalist on the local TV programme "La Cuarta Columna", which airs on Channel 12, and is a member of the editorial board of "El Pilón" newspaper. She is also the communications manager of the Monitoring Committee for Investment Royalties (Comité de Seguimiento a la Inversión de Regalías, CSIR), a joint partnership between civil society and the public and private sectors that looks at how the state uses its royalties from oil extraction, and a correspondent for FLIP in Cesar.

Ferrer told FLIP that she was surprised by the warning. However, she said that she manages a newspaper for the CSIR, which had reported on administrative irregularities in some royalty payments. In the most recent investigation, the newspaper reported on poor planning and financial irregularities in Cesar and La Jagua and questionable awarding of sewage treatment contracts in Chiriguana.

The Cesar police chief has said that an investigation has already been opened and the police would provide Ferrer with protection. According to the ombudsperson in Cesar, there is an ongoing turf war between rival gangs over drug trafficking routes.

An official source, who asked to remain anonymous, told FLIP that it is dangerous to report on irregularities in the mining industry and royalty payments. "There is a lot of money going around there and the reports that Ana María made could make some people very uncomfortable, and they will threaten her to try to stop her."

Journalist Oscar Arzuaga, who reports for Radio Guatapurí, said, "Threats like this cause a lot of tension for journalists here in Valledupar. If Ana María was threatened and she doesn't even report on crime, then what does it mean for the rest of us?"

FLIP calls on the Interior Ministry to provide protective measures for Ferrer and on the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate the threats. FLIP would also like to highlight how quickly the police in Cesar have offered Ferrer protection.

Please note this is an abridged translation.

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