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Colombian journalist forced to flee after receiving threats

The Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, FLIP) condemns the threats recently received by journalist Yesid Toro Meléndez following the reprinting of his book "Complot para matar al Diablo" (Plot to kill the Devil). Toro, who is also editor of the Q'Hubo newspaper in Cali, was forced to flee the city on 16 April 2013.

In March 2013 Toro launched the new edition of his book, which mixes fiction and non-fiction in telling the story of young assassins, in particular a gang leader who was killed.

The author based his characters and story on interviews with gang members, their relatives, the authorities and others who are knowledgeable about the subject. After the book was publicised in the media, some of the members of the families contacted Toro to demand financial compensation for the information they had given him.

Toro responded that he was under no obligation to pay them. Nevertheless, the demands for money kept coming. Some of the individuals concerned even called the Q'Hubo offices and left a message saying: "I don't know where you're going to find the money, but you need to give me what I'm owed."

After two of the killer's relatives appeared at the paper's offices, the journalist called the authorities and they arrested them. One of the individuals was already facing an arrest warrant for another case and remains in prison. The other one was released a few hours after being detained and proceeded to further threaten Toro, accusing him of having set up a trap for them.

Various of the journalist's sources and others linked to the investigation suggested that Toro leave the city of Cali. FLIP was able to speak with a member of the Police's anti-extortion department who confirmed that he had made that recommendation.

Rubén Darío Valencia, director of Q'Hubo in Cali, shared with FLIP his concern about Toro. "Yesid is my star journalist, he's covered some of the local war zones, Tumaco, Buenaventura and other cities in Valle and this is a very difficult situation for him and his family."

The case was submitted to the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP) and the Cali Metropolitan Police, who are in charge of implementing the security plan for the journalist, under the Plan Padrino programme.

FLIP condemns the threats against Toro and urges the Attorney General's Office to carry out the necessary investigations and sanction those responsible.

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