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Radio station director, television reporter flee country following death threats

(PROBIDAD/IFEX) - Dagoberto Rodríguez, director of Radio Cadena Voces (RCV) radio station, fled the country with his family on 1 November 2007 after being informed by police that a death squad intended to kill him within 72 hours.

PROBIDAD and Rodríguez believe that the alleged murder plot is related to his work, given that no one is aware of any other possible motive.

Rodríguez, whose travel destination was not made public for security reasons, was escorted to the airport by National Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio, who described the alleged murder plot as symptomatic of the serious deterioration of freedom of expression in the country.

Rodríguez related how trustworthy police sources came to the offices of RCV on 29 October to inform him "that I had best not leave the building as they had been told that a death squad was out to kill me within the following 72 hours. I immediately called the human rights commissioner who sent staff he trusted to help me get out of the building and protect me."

The journalist added: "I never thought nor imagined that I would have to leave my homeland this way. I still ask myself: What have I done to deserve this threat? I only know how to be a journalist, nothing else. I am afraid, and I'm saddened because in the last 24 hours, my life has taken a completely unexpected turn."

According to Rodríguez, after receiving news of the threat he changed his route of travel to and from work. Before the police warning, he had noticed unidentified individuals in a car with mirror windows following his every move.

Rodríguez's departure comes 12 days after the murder of RCV journalist Carlos Salgado, who hosted a satirical programme on the same radio station. Although police reportedly captured one of the suspects in his murder on the weekend of 27 October, according to unofficial information from from the prosecutor's office, no strong evidence links the suspect to the crime (see IFEX alert of 19 October 2007).

Another journalist, Geovanny García, who emerged uninjured from a murder attempt in September, also left the country in October, after being told he would be killed if he resumed production of his television programme.

Threats against the press, by public employees or unidentified parties, have become increasingly harsh in tone in recent months, following a confrontation between the head of government and certain media outlets that the president has accused of denying him the right of reply to articles of which he disapproves.

This alert was prepared by PROBIDAD with information provided by the Committee for Free Expression (Comité por la Libre Expresión, C-Libre).

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