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Colombia22 December 2003

Reporters Without Borders deeply concerned by the murder of journalist William Soto Cheng

Reporters Without Borders has expressed its deep concern over the murder of journalist William Soto Cheng in Buenaventura, central west Colombia.

Cheng, 46, who worked for the local television station Telemar was gunned down at point blank range by two men on a motorbike in the streets of the Pacific Ocean port of Buenaventura, close to the station’s offices on 18 December.

"Since the early indications suggest the murder was linked to the journalist’s work, we call on you to do your utmost to see that the killers and those who ordered the murder are punished," said Reporters Without Borders in a letter to the state prosecutor-general Luis Camilo Osorio.

He was the 11th journalist to be murdered in Colombia in 2003 and Reporters Without Borders has said it believes that four of the previous ten victims were killed because of their work.

"In common with four other journalists murdered in 2003, Cheng had spoken out against corruption or irregularities, implicating local elected officials or members of the security forces," said the press freedom organisation.

In his programme "Litoral Pacífico", he systematically denounced irregularities apparently committed by local officials and leading figures in the region.

He had alleged electoral fraud the day after municipal elections on 26 October, in which he suggested members of the army and the police were implicated.

The ballot resulted in the election as mayor of Buenaventura of Saulo Quiñones, of the Colombian Liberal Party. Cheng withdrew his allegations and apologised after he was threatened with legal action.

A journalist colleague said that earlier in the year Cheng had alleged embezzlement at the municipal sports institute. One of the managers of the institute had come to blows with him. The same source said that the journalist had recently been threatened and had been thinking of leaving Buenaventura.

The four journalists killed in 2003 because of their work were: Luis Eduardo Alfonso (killed 18 March), José Emeterio Rivas (6 April), Guillermo Bravo Vega (28 April), Jaime Rengifo Revero (29 April).

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