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Colombia28 August 2006

Return of impunity feared as radio presenter becomes third journalist to be killed this year

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today at the murder of Atilano Segundo Pérez, who was gunned down outside his home in the northern city of Cartagena on 22 August, two days after reporting during his weekly programme on Radio Toledar on the activities of far-right paramilitaries who were supposed to have been demobilised.

“Pérez is the second journalist to be killed in Colombia this month - after Mílton Fábian Sánchez - and the third since the start of the year,” the press freedom organisation said. “We have seen journalists getting death threats and being forced to flee for some time. Now these murders mean Colombia has recovered its status alongside Mexico as the western hemisphere’s most dangerous country for the press.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We appeal to the authorities to track down both the instigators and perpetrators of these murders. Otherwise the promises President Álvaro Uribe made about press freedom at the time of his reelection will be just a dead letter, and impunity will once again be the rule.”

According to Agence France-Presse, Pérez, was gunned down outside his home in the Cartagena district of Los Alpes by two men aboard a motorcycle two days after reporting that supposedly demobilised far-right paramilitaries were still active in the nearby, volatile Montes de Maria region and were financing the campaigns of some of the candidates for mayor in Marialabaja, its main town.

The producer and presenter of his own news programme on Radio Todelar for the past for four years, Pérez had often focused on the Montes de Maria region, where right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas continue to operate despite the official demobilisation in July 2005 of 595 members of the Northern Bloc of the Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC), the main paramilitary alliance.

As well as being a radio journalist, Pérez was politically involved in Marialabaja and had been member of Bolívar department’s parliament.

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