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Colombia18 July 2002

Another journalist murdered, two more escape death

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the murder of Colombian radio journalist Dennis Segundo Sánchez and said it was concerned about attempts to kill two others reporters.

"The reason he was killed is not yet clear, but his death is part of the violence journalists are subjected to in Colombia," said Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to the country’s general prosecutor, Luis Camilo Osorio, urging him to find and punish those responsible. Five journalists had been killed in Colombia so far this year, he noted.

Reporters Without Borders estimates that more than 95 per cent of killings in Colombia go unpunished. Last year, 35 cases of murdered journalists were pending before the four judges of the government’s special human rights unit that deals with killings of media workers. In 21 cases, no suspect has been arrested for lack of resources or because of intimidation of judges, witnesses and lawyers.

"The plight of journalists will not improve unless the authorities do everything they can to fight impunity," said Ménard.

Segundo Sánchez, of the radio station 95.5 Estereo in El Carmen de Bolivar, was murdered in the town on 17 July while at home with his wife. The local correspondent of the daily El Universal de Cartagena told Reporters Without Borders that a gunman had shot him four times in the head before fleeing. No police investigation of the incident has been made.

Segundo Sánchez, one of the station’s veteran journalists, presented a programme on the town’s public health policy. His friends said he had not been threatened. The station went off the air for 24 hours after he was killed.

Rebeca Jaramillo and Breitner Bravo, presenters of a news programme on the local TV station Notimar, in Buenaventura (in the eastern province of Valle del Cauca), escaped death on 15 July when two motorcyclists blocked their car and opened fire on them after a funeral in the city’s La Independencia district. Jaramillo, who is three months pregnant, was hit by five bullets and Bravo by three. Both were hospitalised and then transferred to a private clinic in Cali, where they are now out of danger.

Local officials, who have arrested a suspect, said they knew of no previous threats to the two journalists. First suggestions were that the attacks was a personal matter unrelated to their work as journalists. But Reporters Without Borders insisted that a full and speedy enquiry be made and the results made public

Bravo’s colleagues said he had received death threats from the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). One Notimar journalist said a armed man, thought to be an AUC member, had once prevented the two journalists’ programme from going out. The TV station had also been threatened by local businessmen after the programme reported a racket in stolen goods.

According to the provincial daily El Pais, 11 journalists have been murdered in Buenaventura in recent years, including three last year.



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