Reporters Without Borders today roundly condemned the attempted kidnapping of Pedro Cárdenas of radio RCN Honda by presumed members of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) on 12 March in the town of Honda, 200 km. west of Bogota in Tolima department.
"We reiterate our call to all the armed groups to respect journalists," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "This kidnapping attempt is particularly worrying as it raises question about the existence of links between the AUC and local business and political leaders," Ménard added.
A total of 83 journalists have been abducted or detained by illegal armed groups since 1997. Because of the AUC’s repeated attacks on press freedom, its military chief Carlos Castaño is on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of predators of press freedom.
A man turned up at Cárdenas’ home on 12 March and forced Cárdenas come with him on his motorcycle. They joined up with two other men who were waiting in a taxi. The first man then introduced himself as the AUC "No. 2 commander" in the region and told Cárdenas they wanted to question him about some of the "details" of his news reports. They drove out of the town with Cárdenas but were stopped by police in a patrol car who arrested the abductors. Since then, Cárdenas has been holed up in his home, protected by the police. He has been advised to leave the region if not the country.
Nine days earlier, on 3 March, Cárdenas received a visit from two men on a motorcycle who, without identifying themselves, told him to give up his radio job, stop criticising the municipal council and never again mention Alcanos de Colombia. This is a company that was awarded a gas concession by the town hall which was considered questionable by Cárdenas.
Cárdenas has been RCN Honda’s news director for a year and a half. He also presents a daily phone-in programme called "Community voice" and a "Neighbourhood news programme" in which he analyses local news. In both programmes, Cárdenas has often criticised the municipal government and reported on alleged corruption.
In November 2000, when he was a correspondent with Radio Lumbi, Cárdenas had to leave Tolima department and then the country after receiving threats. He had been investigating cases of corruption as well as reporting on the AUC’s arrival in the region. He returned to Tolima at the end of 2001 to take up his job with RCN Honda.