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Radio journalist murdered in Algeciras on Colombia's Day of the Journalist

(CESO-IFJ/IFEX) - Journalist Manuel Arturo Macías Cerrera was shot in the head at 9:30 p.m. (local time) as he was going home on 9 February 2008 in Algeciras, a town in the department of Huila in central Colombia. Taken to a local clinic, he died 10 minutes later. The assassins melted into the crowds gathered for a fireworks display celebrating the Feast of the Virgin of Lourdes.

As well as directing the "Gente Nueva" programme, broadcast daily by Sur radio station, which is based in Neiva, the capital of Huila department, Macías Carrera was a founding member of the Journalists' Association of Huila (Asociación de Periodistas del Huila, ASPEHU), an affiliate of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas (FECOLPER).

Macías Carrera, 38 and the father of one child, had also been elected a town councillor, taking office on 1 January, as the only opposition councillor in Algeciras.

He had begun his career as a journalist working for Radio Futuro station as a football commentator and news announcer. He later became director of Alfa Televisión television station. He had also been a press chief for the town hall, and communications advisor for Huila department's Peace Advisory Office. He was close to former governor Jaime Losada, himself assassinated, and a cousin of former Algeciras mayor Álvaro Macías.

Eduardo Márquez, FECOLPER president and also director of the IFJ's Solidarity Centre (CESO-IFJ) commented: "the cowards who shot our colleague point blank were sending us a death message when we were celebrating Colombia's Day of the Journalist. We got the message. We will double our efforts to ensure our safety throughout the country, but also be unceasingly alert in keeping an eye on the intolerant, be they corrupt politicians, paramilitary groups, guerrillas, corrupt state agents or organised crime groups."

ASPEHU issued a press statement condemning the murder, saying it was an affront to the free exercise of journalism in the region and the entire country. It emphasized that Macías Carrera had continued working as a journalist, directing "Gente Nueva", even after being elected as an Algeciras town councillor in October 2007, as a candidate for the Alianza Afro-colombiana. It noted that he had been a pioneer in television production and the development of local television services, especially in Neiva, Huila's capital, where he had worked as a script-writer, programmer and director, as well as for regional and national television stations.

ASPEHU called on the regional and national authorities to investigate the murder and bring those responsible to justice.

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