Assassination plot against Colombian journalist and researchers

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Her Excellency Clemencia Forero Ucros, Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia to Canada  
Embassy of the Republic of Colombia  
360 Albert Street, Suite 1002  
Ottawa, ON K1R 7X7  

Dear Ambassador,  
 
I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-­profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is troubled by the alleged plot to assassinate a journalist and two political analysts from Colombia for investigating government corruption and developments in the country's enduring internal armed conflict.

According to reports from Reuters and Committee to Protect Journalists, a fugitive assassin from Cesar province was hired to kill freelance investigative journalist Gonzalo Guillén in relation to his in-­depth coverage of organized crime and political corruption in Colombia. Also targeted in the reported assassination plot, which was leaked to Colombian authorities by an unidentified source two weeks ago, were two political analysts for international think-tank Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, León Valencia and Ariel Ávila. It is believed that the assassination plot was in response to simultaneous investigations by Guillén, Valencia and Ávila linking politicians to gangs and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's influential  guerilla  organization.

According to Foundation for Press Freedom-FLIP, Guillén has been targeted for his reporting before: his repeated criticisms of former President Álvaro Uribe in Spanish-language Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald, as well as his 2011 documentary on collaboration between the Colombian government and FARC, have led to serious threats, intimidation, and the repeated need for him to seek short-­term exile.      

While Colombia's National Protection Unit pledged to improve security for these men, such threats affirm the continued struggle and danger faced by Colombian journalists. Just this month, eight reporters were forced to flee the city of Valledupar for covering land resolution efforts, and an investigative journalist barely escaped an assassination attempt not far from Bogotá for his coverage of corruption within military prisons.      

CJFE urges Colombian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into these recent threats in order to ensure a safe environment in which journalists can work and report freely.      

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.    

Yours sincerely,  
Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. Tim Martin, Ambassador of Canada to Colombia  
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs