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Journalist flees after FARC threats

(FLIP/IFEX) - 19 April 2012 - FLIP condemns threats by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group against journalist Jesús Antonio Pareja, an announcer for the La Voz de la Tierra community radio station in Roncesvalles municipality, Tolima department.

FLIP recently learned of threats made against Pareja, 52, on 9 April 2012 from someone who identified themselves as being a FARC guerrilla. The caller said, "I am a Frente 21 FARC member. You are Pareja, from the radio station? . . . We are declaring you a military target and if you keep reporting the way you have, people will be picking up pieces of you in the park".

After being threatened, Pareja left Roncesvalles the same week. "I don't know why they are threatening me," Pareja told FLIP, "for 13 years I have worked for this station, which mainly focuses on educational topics." Luis Alberto Cardona, the station director, said that the outlet helps students in the region with their work. He also said that a few days earlier the station had broadcast information related to land restitution and he thinks this might have been the reason for the threats. Cardona added that as a symbolic gesture the station has stopped broadcasting until the source of the threats is identified.

Tolima Chief of Police, Wilson Eduardo Mosquera, told FLIP that he was not familiar with the details of the case but that he had scheduled a meeting with the journalist to discuss safety measures.

Roncesvalles is a town close to the Hermosas canyon and according to many sources who spoke with FLIP, the FARC has a significant presence in the area. On 31 March there were confrontations between the FARC and the army in one of the local districts.

FLIP calls on the police and the National Safety Unit to implement the appropriate measures to safeguard the work of Jesús Antonio Pareja, and calls on the National Attorney General's Office to begin investigations into the threat.

FLIP also calls on the federal government to guarantee the work of community broadcasters in conflict zones. This is the second case of threats against a community journalist in the span of one week.

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