Reporters Without Borders today condemned the death threats which three journalists in the northeastern department of César have been receiving since the start of the month and called for a rapid response from the authorities. The latest targets are Enrique Alfonso Camargo Plata of Radio Guatapurí, Galo Bravo Picossa, the editor of the daily El Pilón, and Miguel Macea, the correspondent of Noticias Uno and Tele Caribe.
“These latest cases of death threats follow nearly a score of others throughout Colombia registered by our organisation since the start of the year, which in some case have forced the journalists concerned to flee the region where they were living,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We support the initiative of local civil and military authorities to convene a ‘security council’ to analyse the situation of the recently threatened journalists and we urge them to act as soon as possible,” the organisation added.
Camargo has been threatened twice, in a telephone call to his radio station on 1 October and in an SMS text message received the next day on his mobile phone that said: “Stop talking so much on the radio or I will put a bullet in you.”
The producer of a current affairs programme called ‘La Tribuna del Cesar,’ Camargo thinks organised crime is behind the threats. He recently covered alleged irregularities in a privately-owned telephone company’s contract for the installation of new lines in the city of Valledupar. He has reported the threats to the Department for Security Administration (DAS), Colombia’s leading intelligence agency, which has given him a bodyguard.
Bravo received several phone calls threatening all of his newspaper’s staff. “If you publish the file on the mayor of Aguachica, I will torch you,” the caller said on one occasion. Bravo recently ran a story about the mayor’s dismissal by the council of state. Aguachica is a town in the department of César.
Macea received a phone message that was equally disturbing. It referred to the extreme right-wing paramilitaries of the United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC): “My friend, you cannot imagine how grateful I would be if you were to lower your voice on the subject of self-defence. You know that we are in the middle of a peace process and if it fails, you and your family will pay the consequences.”
In a newly broadcast report about the rallying of local students and peasants in support of negotiations with the paramilitaries, Macea had referred to physical attacks against journalists in the region.