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Message contains threats for eight Colombian journalists covering land issues

FLIP is seriously concerned about a note found on 6 May 2013 at 11 p.m. in the city of Valledupar, Cesar department, which contained threats aimed at eight journalists from the region. It read “All people in Valledupar are informed that from this moment, the following journalists (toads) are declared military targets and have 24 hours to leave the city”. The threat was signed by the "Ejército Anti restitución de tierras", a group against land restitution, and was dated 5 May.

The journalists named in the note are: Herlency Gutiérrez (RCN Radio); Jaime José Daza (Maravilla Stereo); Damaris Rojas (Al Día Valledupar newspaper); Renier Asprilla (El Heraldo), Katia Ospino (Noticias UNO y CM&), Óscar Arzuaga (La Tribuna del Cesar de Radio Guatapuri), Ubaldo Anaya Flórez (Noticiero RPT), Martín Mendoza (Caracol Televisión and El Pilón). All of the journalists named cover public safety and legal issues, and in the past two months had published pieces about land restitution.

The message also told the journalists to “keep their noses out” of land restitution issues.

FLIP, Fecolper and Andiarios met with the Minister of the Interior, the Attorney General, the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Police and the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP) to discuss the situation. The UNP was asked to carry out emergency procedures to protect the journalists.

FLIP was told that the affected journalists also met with the Cesar police chief, Colonel Juan Pablo Guerrero, who promised to supply police protection and investigate related risks for the journalists.

The same group, the "Ejército Anti restitución de tierras", threatened local land claim leaders 15 days earlier. Those threats came after a meeting about land restitution lead by President Juan Manuel Santos in the small town of Santa Paula, in Córdoba department.

Cesar has historically been one of the most dangerous departments in Colombia for journalists.

FLIP stands with all the journalists threatened, emphasises the need for the authorities to react immediately and calls on the UNP to put in place security measures for those affected. The organisation also calls on the Federal Attorney General to investigate the incident and punish those responsible.

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