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Colombian authorities uncover plot against journalist and researchers

FLIP (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa) is concerned about a plot against independent journalist Gonzalo Guillén, León Valencia, a columnist with Semana magazine, and Ariel Avila, an independent researcher.

On 13 May 2013 the information about the plan was made public by the director of the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP) when he tweeted:

"The UNP has received sensitive, detailed information about a plan to kill three people we are protecting. They are León Valencia, Gonzalo Guillén and Ariel Ávila. The three have very strong protection plans that have been reinforced. We have informed the national police and the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police and Intelligence (Dirección Central de Policía Judicial e Inteligencia, DIJIN) is investigating. We will not allow these plans to be carried out. The presumed killer is known as 'Morroncho' and is in Bogotá. We know his real name and have shared it with the DIJIN."




Guillén is a well-known journalist who, until recently, worked as a Bogotá correspondent for the Miami Herald, where he wrote articles critical of President Álvaro Uribe. He made a documentary called "Operación Jaque" and has worked on multiple audiovisual projects on the "false positives" scandal about a series of murders in Colombia. He is currently doing research on drug and explosives trafficking on the Colombian Atlantic coast.

Valencia is a Semana magazine columnist and former director of the Nuevo Arco Iris Corporation, a foundation that filed a report with the Minsitry of the Interior about connections between politicians and criminal groups in various parts of the country in the lead-up to the 2010 legislative elections. He also did research for the Supreme Court to show that several congressmen benefited from paramilitary groups' influence to obtain seats in parliament, between 2002 and 2006.

Ávila was an armed conflict researcher for the Nuevo Arco Iris Corporation and is currently working with Valencia on his new project, the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Fundación Paz y Reconciliación).

This is not the first time that these three men have been the target of threats. On other occasions they have had to leave the country to protect their safety. In 2008, Valencia and Ávila received anonymous calls in which they were called "guerrillas". A year earlier, Guillén left Colombia for some time after he learned of a plan to kill him.

FLIP comends the quick actions of the UNP and the police, who immediately reinforced the protection being offered to the journalists. The organisation calls on the Federal Attorney General to keep in mind the possibility that the professional work of the journalists could be tied to the motive for these latest threats.

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