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Colombia18 May 2005

Paramilitaries threaten Colmundo Radio manager in Ibagué

Gilberto Martínez Prado, the manager of Colmundo Radio in Ibagué (the capital of the central department of Tolima), has been threatened again, this time in a message received from right-wing paramilitaries on 16 May. A statement signed by the "Tolima Bloc" of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) accused him of being "sensationalist and manipulative" and declared him a "military target." It was signed "Daniel Roa," the presumed chief of the local paramilitaries.

Martínez has often covered corruption and drug trafficking in the past two years, and recently reported on suspected embezzlement in a social insurance fund allegedly implicating local officials. The target of repeated threats, he described himself as "exhausted" and "extremely worried." He said the protection he is getting from the interior ministry is not enough to ensure his and his family’s safety, but he refuses to leave Ibagué.

28.04.2005-Radio journalist threatened and harassed in Ibagué

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a new death threat against Gilberto Martínez Prado, the manager of Colmundo Radio in Ibagué (in the center-western department of Tolima), as well as the threats and harassment to which he has been constantly subjected for years.

"The police protection he has been getting for the past two years is not enough on its own to guarantee his right to freely practice his trade and does not exonerate the Colombian government from its duty to investigate the corruption allegations he has made, which have prompted the death threats and harassment and forced him to leave the region several times," the organization said.

On arriving at the radio station on 26 April, Martínez found a letter saying: "Carry on criticizing, son of a bitch, hide behind that microphone that makes you feel big. All runts end up in the cemetery."

The Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (a Colombia press freedom organization partnered with Reporters Without Borders) noted that Martínez has in recent weeks been covering a case of embezzlement in a family insurance fund in which a former parliamentary representative for Tolima is implicated.

As well as being a radio journalist, Martínez is also a member of a committee that was set up to monitor implementation of a pact on transparency in the Ibagué local government. Since 2000, he has specialized in the fight against local corruption.

"My problems began in January 2003 when I criticised a system of corruption within the previous municipal government and its links with drug traffickers," he told Reporters Without Borders. "It was around this time that my friend Felix Martínez Ramírez, a lawyer and a member of the committee, was murdered."

He accused the former mayor’s father, Mario Rodríguez Padilla, of being behind the murder and prosecutors in Bogotá ordered Rodríguez’s arrest on suspicion of being the instigator. "But the arrest order was never executed, and I am the prosecution witness in this case," he said.

The Department for Security Administration (DAS) granted him special protection in March 2003. Since then, 37 bodyguards have taken turns to protect him. "But the threats have never stopped," he said. "I have had to leave the region several times and take my family out." The protection was renewed in September 2004 but Martínez is concerned that it may stop soon.

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