Thursday, August 21, 2014

Colombia: Update--Oversight Agency in Antioquía Reviewing Attacks on Journalists

According to The Latin American Tribune, a new agency created by the Colombian Inspector General’s Office will investigate this month’s murder of a journalist whose police protection had been summarily withdrawn even though he had reported a new death threat.

Luís Carlos Cervantes, the director of a radio station in the northwestern town of Tarazá, was intercepted by three gunmen and shot and killed on August 12, and gunned down while riding his motorcycle.

Although the assailants have yet to be identified, investigation this far indicates that the Urabeños gang, an offshoot of the now-defunct AUC paramilitary federation, was behind the journalist’s assassination.

To help solve the crime, the IG’s office created a “special agency” to cooperate on the investigation with prosecutors in Antioquía department.

COMMENT: I strongly discourage that all targeted journalists in Colombia  AVOID using two-wheeled, motorized vehicles if they have received death threats, due to the vulnerability of  such modes of transportation.

Cervantes had been granted a police bodyguard in 2012 by the National Protection Unit (UNP), a Colombian government body that protects journalists and others who have received threats stemming from their work, said the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, known by its French initials as RSF.

Yet, such protection was summarily withdrawn two weeks prior to Cervantes’ after which the UNP, without an in-depth assessment, that the journalist was no longer in danger, even though the journalist told the unit he had received a new death threat on July 21.

After the murder, the Antioquia Journalists’ Association, RSF and the United Nations condemned Mr. Cervantes’ assassination and called for a thorough investigation.

The national ombudsman’s office, for its part, said 93 journalists have reported various types of threats since the beginning of 2014, up from 42 cases in 2013.