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Colombian journalist attacked and held while investigating human trafficking

FLIP, the Foundation for Press Freedom, condemns the incidents reported by journalist Oscar Castaño Valencia on 10 November while he was investigating cases related to human trafficking.

Castaño Valencia has worked for the past few months on an investigation into the regulation of prostitution by "combos", criminal groups, in the municipality of Bello, in the Antioquia department.

On Monday 10 November, a source who had previously collaborated with Castaño Valencia on his investigative work, asked him to meet to share new information. After following the source's instructions, the journalist met up with them in a shopping centre in the Pérez neighbourhood and took a taxi to the source's home, in the La Meseta neighbourhood.

Once inside, three men wearing hoods and armed with automatic weapons with silencers, who had been hiding in the bathroom, attacked him and beat him repeatedly. The men held him for two hours.

The journalist said that the men, "pushed me to the floor, put a gag in my mouth, tightened my scarf, made me kneel and took away my mobile phone, personal documents, tape recorder, camera, car keys, bank cards and other personal items I had in my bag."

Castaño Valencia said he was then forced to write a false confession saying that he had sexually assaulted an eight-year-old minor.

At around 10 p.m. the men told the journalist he would have to pay them 6 million pesos to get back his documents and card keys, warning him that "what's at stake here is your life, son of a bitch."

Castaño Valencia went to the police and showed them on a map exactly where the attack had taken place and where he had been held. He also filed a report with the Attorney General.

In the past 10 years Castaño Valencia has been the victim of various attacks and once he was forced to leave the country.

The chief of the Valle de Aburrá Metropolitan police, General José Ángel Mendoza Guzmán, said that his organisation is investigating the case and was waiting for any advances in the investigation being carried out by the Attorney General's office.

FLIP calls on authorities to review the circumstances surrounding the incident and urges them to find those responsible for the attack.

The National Protection Unit has started to put in place the necessary measures to reduce risks facing Castaño Valencia.

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