Reporters Without Borders is very worried about the threats that have been made against Sarare Estéreo, a community radio station based in Saravena, in the northeastern department of Arauca, since early May. In the latest incident, on 28 May, the entrance of the station was painted with the letters AUC - the initials of the paramilitary alliance known as the United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia.
“An investigation must be carried out as quickly as possible to determine whether these threats are coming from the paramilitaries and, in the meantime, Sarare Estéreo and its staff must be given protection at once,” the press freedom organisation said. “The paramilitaries have not disarmed despite the government’s demobilisation programme. They continue to have connections within the political class, in some cases at a very high level, and they continue to pose a serious danger to the media, especially in the provinces.”
“A detailed evaluation of the risks must be carried out and security measures must be taken by the authorities, in coordination with journalists’ organisations and human rights groups,” Reporters Without Borders added, saying it was ready to contribute to such an initiative.
The staff of Sarare Estéreo found the letters AUC painted on the entrance to the station on the morning of 28 May. Officially demobilised in June 2006, the AUC is Colombia’s biggest paramilitary group.
Sarare Estéreo manager Ella Patricia Ardila told Reporters Without Borders that all of the station’s staff have been getting threatening messages signed “Arauca Self-Defence Groups” since 8 May. The messages warn them “not to meddle in subjects that do not concern you.”
Sarare Estéreo’s programme content consists almost entirely of music. Its only news programme is broadcast from 6 to 7 am. In early May, it reported the capture of a drug trafficker known as Pablo Arauca, who allegedly set up paramilitary groups on the department. But Ardila said his arrest was widely covered by all the national media so it would not explain the threats against Sarare Estéreo.
Other local sources take the same view, claiming that ordinary criminal gangs are using the “AUC” label to create a climate of fear.