Reporters Without Borders is stunned by yesterday’s fatal stabbing of journalist Javier Darío Arroyave in Cartago, in the southwestern department of Valle del Cauca. Aged 41, Arroyave was news director of local radio station Ondas del Valle, a Caracol affiliate, and a correspondent for the national daily El Tiempo. He also did other work.
His body was found in his home yesterday morning. He had been stabbed many times and his laptop had been taken. The police quickly ruled out any connection with his work as a journalist but Reporters Without Borders says this possibility should be investigated.
“Arroyave got into trouble several times in the past with the local authorities for covering corruption cases involving municipal and departmental officials,” the press freedom organisation said. “Colombian journalists who dare to cover this kind of story run the risk of serious reprisals. Although Arroyave did not report getting any direct threats prior to his murder, the possibility of a work-related motive cannot be dismissed out of hand. It should be considered along with other possible theories.”
Arroyave’s Ondas del Valle colleagues began to suspect something was wrong when he did not turn up for the morning news programme, in which he was supposed to take part, and when he did not answer repeated calls to his home. They discovered his body when they went to his home and a neighbour with a copy of his door key let them in.
The police said he was stabbed in the chest and abdomen. Three individuals are believed to have participated in the murder, taking his laptop and a few other personal effects. But no sign of a break-in was reported. Cartago police chief Armando Burbano said he did not think the murder was linked to Arroyave’s journalistic activities.
However, the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Colombia, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), pointed out that former Cartago mayor Luis Alberto Castro suspended local government advertising for Arroyave’s programme in 2005, criticising him for trying to implicate local politicians in corruption.
Cartago is also reputed to be one of the bases of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, allegedly led by Diego “Don Diego” León Montoya Sánchez.
If the work-related motive is confirmed, Arroyave will be the first journalist to be murdered this year in Colombia because of his work.