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Friday, 30 March 2012

Journalist Killed in Northern Colombia

IPI Urges National Government to Immediately Launch Investigation 

By: Scott Griffen, IPI Associate

Colombian soldiers in front of a governmental office for land restitution in El Carmen de Bolivar, Bolivar department, Colombia, on February 24, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Eitan ABRAMOVICH.

VIENNA, Mar. 30, 2012 – A Colombian community radio reporter was gunned down yesterday evening in a small city near the Caribbean coast by two unknown, motorcycle-bound assailants, becoming the second journalist killed in the country in the past two weeks.

Colombian media reported that Jesús Martínez Orozco, 42, was on his way to visit a friend in his hometown of Sabanalarga, Atlántico province (approx. 680 km north of Bogotá) when he was overtaken by a motorcycle whose passenger fired three shots at him. News reports said the journalist died shortly after being rushed to a local hospital.

A colleague, Antonio Cervantes, told El Heraldo that Martínez Orozco hosted several cultural and musical programs for La Nueva station.  “His opinion was respected for the historical knowledge he had of the theme [of music],” Cervantes said.  “Today [Friday] he was supposed to present a special on the sacred music on account of the beginning of Holy Week.”

Cervantes added that Martínez Orozco also occasionally wrote for a local newspaper, La Opinión de Sabanalarga.  

Jesús Movilla, secretary of the local Sabanalarga government, told AP that Martínez Orozo had not told family members of any threats against him.  El Heraldo quoted a relative as saying, “He didn’t pick fights with anybody; he was a good person who was very interested in cultural topics.”

On March 15, a radio journalist and former mayor, Argemiro Cárdenas Agudelo, was shot and killed after being lured from his office in Dosquebradas, Risaralda province.  Police early last week announced the capture of the suspected hitman, who was allegedly promised 1 million pesos (approx. € 420) for carrying out the act. IPI today released a statement urging police to determine who masterminded the attack on Cárdenas Agudelo and why.

IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: “We extend our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Jesús Martínez Orozco. His death underscores the growing danger facing regional journalists across Latin America, which last year was the deadliest part of the world for the media. We call upon Colombian authorities at both the national and local levels to take this case extremely seriously and to thoroughly investigate Mr. Martínez’s death for any possible links to his work.”

An IPI special report in February revealed the extent of the threat to regional media in Latin America, where 25 of 31 journalistic killings in 2011 occurred outside of major metropolises.  The vast majority of the journalists in those cases were known for their criticism of local politicians or their reporting on drug cartels or illegal mining operations.

While violence against the media in Colombia has seen an overall decrease over the past decade, the Colombian Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP, its Spanish acronym) said in its 2011 annual report that it had recorded a “significant increase” in threats toward journalists compared to the past several years and warned of a growing “environment of established censorship” in the country.  

Martínez Orozco is the fifth journalist to be killed in Latin America this year, according to IPI’s Death Watch.  All five deaths – two each in Brazil and Colombia, and one in Honduras – occurred in interior regions.