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Colombia25 February 2004

Death threats against two journalists in Barrancabermeja
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the continuing climate of hostility toward local journalists

Diego Waldrón, who edits the Barrancabermeja-based weekly Siete Dias and presents the daily news programme "Noticias en Caliente" on Calor Estéreo, was threatened at his home by the bodyguard of a person linked to the city hall on 14 February, a day after referring on the air to the lack of qualifications of someone named by the mayor to run a municipal company.

Just three weeks before, on 26 January, Waldrón was the target of a death threat from the chamber of commerce president’s brother, who tried to attack him with an iron bar after he mentioned alleged embezzlement in the running of the chamber. The assailant returned two days later and waited outside his home until overpowered by police, who then freed him.

Garibaldi López, the producer and presenter of two news programmes on Calor Estéreo ("Actualidad en Estéreo" and "Controversia"), received a threatening phone call at his home on 9 February from the paramilitary United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC).

The caller said: "The first was José Emeterio Rivas [a journalist killed on April 2003], the second will be Garibaldi López and the third will be Diego Waldrón." López presents news programmes that cover all issues, including the AUC. The paramilitaries say he talks too much.

Mounting tension Reports of threats against journalists in the Barrancabermeja region have been increasing for several months. Inés Peña, the presenter of the "Cultura por la vida" segment of the news programme "La Mohana" on the Barrancabermeja-based regional channel Enlace 10, was kidnapped and tortured on 28 January by AUC members. She had criticised the paramilitaries’ arrival in the region as well as human rights violations by all the armed groups.

Pedro Javier Galvis Murillo of the weekly La Noticia and Yaneth Montoya, a correspondent for the regional daily Vanguardia Liberal, were forced to leave the city in October after receiving death threats. A list of persons for execution, believed to have been compiled by the AUC, had been handed in to the office of the ombudsman. Montoya’s name was on the list.

According to the latest report by the Press Freedom Federation (FLIP), issued this month, press reporting about corruption is on of the chief reasons for physical attacks and threats against journalists. The FLIP said that in many cases officials who had been criticised got together with armed groups to silence journalists.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that officials in Barrancabermeja who have been criticised by the press have in recent months often mentioned their links with the AUC in an attempt to intimidate journalists.

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