Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Still a Dangerous Business

Journalism is still a dangerous business in Colombia.

It's no longer like the days of Pablo Escobar, when journalists were assassinated and driven into exile with terrifying frequency. But, whether it's because of the continuing activity of illegal, violent groups, or Colombia's still high level of societal violence, Colombian journalists seem to run more risks than their compatriots overseas.

Today, the government announced that it had uncovered a plan to assassinate two investigators with the Nuevo Arco Iris human rights NGO and an independent journalist. The would-be attack allegedly came from right-wing paramilitary organizations. One of the targeted investigators is a demobilized guerrilla, and the three men had uncovered links between politicians and paramilitary organizations in the 2011 elections.
Two weeks ago gunmen attacked Ricardo Calderón, head of investigations for Semana magazine, who escaped unhurt. Last week, pamphlets distributed in the city of Valledupar threatened eight journalists. The threats apparently came from groups opposed to the restitution of land stolen by guerrilla and paramilitary groups. And on May 12 in the city of Cali a hitman shot to death Alberto Lázaro del Valle, director of Radio Planeta, as he was leaving work. However, according to news reports Lázaro del Valle was likely targeted for personal reasons.

As frightening as all this news is, the encouraging part is that this flurry of threats and violence has not triggered a wave of journalists fleeing the country, as happened in past eras. Apparently, now, there is a general feeling that the forces of law have the upper hand.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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