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Colombia19 June 2007

Detained suspects confess to killing radio journalist for the cash he was carrying

The two people who were arrested for the 14 June murder of radio journalist Garrid Muñoz Tello - army sergeant Albeiro Otálvaro and army civilian employee Fanny Estela Lozano - reportedly confessed on 17 June to killing him in order to rob the large sum of cash he was carrying.

Muñoz, the founder of Arauca-based radio La Voz del Cinaruco, travelled to Bogotá on 13 June to collect the equivalent of 80,000 euros from another army sergeant. He met Otálvaro and Lozano while in Bogotá and they travelled with him to Villavicencio, in the central department of Meta, where they rented the motel room in which Muñoz’s body was found.


15.06.07 - Regional radio station founder murdered, two suspects quickly arrested

Reporters Without Borders today voiced shock and sadness in reaction to the murder yesterday of Garrid Muñoz Tello, aged 68, founder of radio La Voz del Cinaruco, who was gunned down by a man and a woman as he drove his car in Villavicencio, in the central department of Meta. Police quickly said they had arrested and detained two people : one is an army sergeant, Albeiro Otálvaro and the other one is an army civilian employee, Fanny Estela Lozano.

"While the state of press freedom has remained highly critical in Colombia, murders of journalists have tended to decrease in recent years," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "The death of Garrid Muñoz Tello is a reminder that this country is still one of the most dangerous in the world for the press."

"Naturally, we are pleased at the immediate arrest of his suspected killers. We very much need to know if their motives were linked to their victim’s work," it added.

The murdered journalist was a fierce critic of several local politicians and armed groups. "Garrid Muñoz Tello was never afraid to tell the truth. Sometimes he did it with a radiant sense of humour that was typical of him, which we will miss from now on, and sometimes much more seriously and incisively," editorial staff at La Voz del Cinaruco told Agence France-Presse.

The headquarters of La Voz del Cinaruco is based in the eastern department of Arauca on the border with Venezuela, which is rife with guerrillas from the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), currently in peace talks with the government, and extreme-right para-militaries, which have refused to disarm.

A US Army elite commando is currently working with Colombian armed forces in the struggle against guerrillas and to protect an oil pipeline, which transits the area, owned by North American multinational, Occidental Petroleum. The department is also on a notorious drugs route

Garrid Muñoz Tello was the first Colombian journalist to be murdered since the start of 2007.



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