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Colombia15 July 2005

Threats force newspaper editor to stay at home, consider flight

Reporters Without Borders today called on the authorities to provide adequate protection for Wilmar Jaramillo Velásquez, the founder and editor of the monthly El Pregonero del Darien, who is being threatened and harassed by local officials in the town of Apartadó in the northwestern department of Antioquia.

"Jaramillo is in real danger and we fear he may have to bow to the demands of those threatening him and flee the region, which will be a real blow to press freedom," the organisation said, adding: "We therefore call on the authorities to take his complaints seriously, investigate them, and give him protection so that he can resume working normally."

Jaramillo received threatening e-mail messages in November, January and April, each time telling him to leave the region within 24 hours. Then he received phone calls in May and June repeating these threats and telling him to let the mayor do his work.

Fearing for his life, he now works from his home, located just 50 metres from the local office of the security services, and rarely goes out. His advertisers and his contributing journalists have also been threatened and, one by one, have stopped working with him.

His newspaper has been closely following scandals implicating Apartadó mayor José Phidalgo Banguero Zapata for the past year. It reported that the mayor gave himself an illegal raise and used municipal funds to pay off his election campaign debts.

Jaramillo filed a complaint about the threats but the slowness of the police investigation suggests a lack of interest in identifying and punishing those responsible.

Reporters Without Borders has registered 23 press freedom violations in Colombia since the start of the year. They have ranged from death threats to physical attacks on journalists and bomb attacks on news media. Some journalists have had to flee the regions where they live and work.

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