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Colombia18 June 2008

Magazine editor beaten, threatened at gunpoint after covering paramilitary links

Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to reinforce the protection they are providing to Pedro Cárdenas, the editor of the magazine La Verdad, after two men hit him and threatened him with a gun on 14 June in Bogotá in an attempt to dissuade him from distributing the latest issue in Tolima, a department west of Bogotá. Attempts have been made to intimidate Cárdenas in the past.

“Paramilitary groups may have Cárdenas in their sights after La Verdad named four people who were arrested at the start of June for suspected paramilitary links,” the press freedom organisation said. “This is not the first time he has been seriously threatened after a new issue came out. It is essential that the authorities should step up the protective measures he is receiving. They should also guarantee that La Verdad will be able to continue publishing.”

Cárdenas was intercepted by two men on a white motorcycle as he was walking in the capital on 14 June. One of them hit him several times and, with revolver in his hand, told him that La Verdad had better not appear in Tolima. With bruises to the head and body, Cárdenas immediately went to the police Centre for Immediate Attention (CAI), where the person in charge ordered a search for the white motorcycle that was unsuccessful. Cárdenas filed a formal complaint on 16 June.

Cárdenas told Reporters Without Borders he felt that the danger to which he was exposed had increased as a result of La Verdad’s latest issue, which named the four suspects arrested at the start of June and questioned the effectiveness of the investigators in charge of the case.

The 12 issues of La Verdad that have so far appeared have included reports by Cárdenas on such issues as trafficking in sex slaves, the seizure of land in Tolima by members of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) and links between the AUC and certain local officials.

Cárdenas reported to the public prosecutor’s office on 15 April that he just received an anonymous death threat coinciding with the appearance of an issue of the magazine. On 29 May, he reported technical flaws in the protection he was receiving.

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