A little-known group calling itself the Corporación Democrática Colombia Libre (Free Colombia Democratic Corporation) sent threatening e-mail messages to a journalists’ collective, Medios Para la Paz (Media for Peace), and 28 human rights NGOs on 15 September warning that they would be regarded as “military targets” from 22 September onwards because of the information they provide.
This was the third time in four months that Medios para la Paz has been the target of this kind of threat. The collective and 19 NGOs were accused of being “disguised revolutionaries” on 7 June by the Autodefensas Colombia Libre Mesa Nacional Unificada (United National Board for Free Colombia Self-Defence). It also received a threatening message on 4 August signed by the Frente Democrático Colombia Libre (Free Colombia Democratic Front).
13.06.06 - Far-right paramilitaries send threatening e-mail to 19 human rights organisations
Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about a threatening e-mail message received by 19 human rights and press freedom organisations on 7 June from an extreme-right-wing paramilitary group called the Free Colombia Democratic Front, which accused them of serving the interests of Colombia’s leftist guerrillas and declared them all to be a “military target.”
The recipients included the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP), which is the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Colombia.
Noting that President Álvaro Uribe has undertaken to combat the emergence of new far-right groups, Reporters Without Borders appealed to the authorities to keep their promises and to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for these threats are identified and punished.
“We call on the Colombian authorities to look into the provenance of these e-mail messages and to carry out an exhaustive investigation,” the organisation said. “We also insist on the need to adopt measures to protect the targeted organisations, for which we express our support.”
The e-mail message accused the recipients of being “disguised revolutionaries.” It said: “From now on you will have to deal with us, who have a presence throughout more than half of Colombia (...) We will not lose time in entering into action within the major cities (...) As for Bogotá, we will take a few trips around it this week. What will you do then? Will you continue to cry out? You are declared a military target.”
Gloria Ortega Pérez, the head of Medios para la Paz (Media for Peace - a group set up to provide better information about Colombia’s civil war), told Reporters Without Borders that despite being one of the recipients, her organisation was determined to continue “working for responsible journalism and for the defence and promotion of free expression and press freedom.” She said it was the first time press freedom groups had been threatened.
Medios para la Paz has asked attorney-general Mario Iguarán to conduct an investigation into the threats, in view of their gravity. It has also asked to be included in a special interior ministry programme that provides protection to journalists in danger.
The Press Freedom Foundation intends to meet with those running this programme to evaluate the situation.