Journalists in danger in Colombia

Thursday, September 2, 1999

Journalists in danger in Colombia

2 September 1999

His Excellency Andrés Pastrana Arango
President of the Republic of Colombia
Casa de Narino
Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia
Fax: +571 286 7434/286 7937/284 2186
E-mail: pastrana@presidencia.gov.co

Your Excellency,

On behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-governmental organization that promotes freedom of expression worldwide, I wish to express my deep concern over the production and distribution of a pamphlet that began circulating in the streets of Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín in August in which threats against journalists and other intellectuals were made.

The pamphlet, signed by the Colombian Rebel Army (ERC), accuses 21 intellectuals, among them three journalists, of being enemies of Colombia’s peace process. The pamphlet reads: "These sinister figures feed the war between Colombians, foment hatred and class struggle, live off the war.... They will pay for the destruction of the peace process."

The three journalists mentioned by name are: Alfred Molano, a columnist for the Bogotá-based daily "El Espectador" who had to flee the country earlier this year after his life was threatened by Carlos Castaño, leader of the right-wing parliamentary United Self Defense Forces (AUC); Patricia Lara, the former owner of the weekly "Cambio" who now writes occassionally for the Bogotá-based daily "El Tiempo"; and Arturo Alape, biographer of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Manuel Marulanda, and a columnist for "El Espectador".

I’d like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the recent murder of journalist Jaime Garzón as an example of how seriously threats against journalists in Colombia must be taken. According to Garzón’s colleagues, Garzón had been threatened by Carlos Castaño in his last few days. Had those threats been taken seriously, Mr. Garzón’s death may have been prevented.

I call on you to do your utmost to determine who is behind this ERC-signed pamphlet, and to take action to protect the lives of those threatened in it.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sincerely,

Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director

cc. Alfonso Gómez Méndez
Fiscal General
Diagonal 22 B 5201
Apartado Aéreo 29855
Bogotá, Colombia

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