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Outspoken columnist wounded in gun attack

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for a thorough investigation into a shooting attack in which newspaper columnist Eliécer Calzadilla was seriously injured in Ciudad Bolívar, in the eastern state of Bolívar, on 27 September 2008. Calzadilla, who writes for the "Correo del Caroní", a regional daily based in the nearby city of Puerto Ordaz, is in stable condition.

"Although Calzadilla seems to have been the target of an attempted contract killing, there is not yet any evidence that the motive was political," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is however already clear that the motive was not robbery and allowing this shooting to go unpunished would probably encourage journalists to censor themselves for their own protection."

The press freedom organisation added: "We therefore urge the Bolívar state authorities to lose no time in carrying out a proper investigation. Bringing Calzadilla's would-be killers to justice would help to defuse the high degree of tension currently existing at the national level between President Hugo Chávez's government and the privately-owned press."

Calzadilla, 56, and his wife had left the cinema on the evening of 27 September and were on their way to a restaurant where they regularly dine. The couple were returning to their car when two gunmen opened fire and then fled on motorcycle. One of the shots hit Calzadilla in the back of the neck, severing a vertebra. He was rushed to a hospital intensive care unit and is currently in stable condition, although he will likely have to undergo surgery to remove the bullet.

Calzadilla managed to dictate his weekly column to his daughter from his hospital bed. In the column, which was published on 29 September, he said it was clear the gunmen had intended to kill him as they did not say a word and did not try to take anything from him or his wife. His colleagues, including the newspaper's editor, David Natera Febles, believe he was the target of an attempted contract killing.

A lawyer by training and a contributor to the "Correo del Caroní" for more than 20 years, Calzadilla has often criticised corruption and local government abuses in his columns. The "Correo del Caroní" is itself also very critical of the government and has received threats in the past.

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