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Investigation underway to determine whether journalists' murders are linked

(IPYS/IFEX) - A public prosecutor is investigating whether the Wednesday 13 December 2000 murder of Alfredo Abad Lopez in Florencia (capital of the Caquetá department, in south-western Colombia) might be connected to the murder of his colleague, Guillermo Leon Agudelo, which occurred two weeks earlier in the same city.

The area where the journalists were murdered has been the focal point of a battle between the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC) and the rebel group Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) to win control of the territory.

Abad, 35, was shot point-blank by two men in front of his home in Bellavista, a neighbourhood in the southeastern area of the city. He had a six year-old daughter and was married to Nelsy Álvarez. Abad had graduated from the Libertadores University and later worked for the programme Ecos del Orteguaza.

According to the 14 December edition of the daily "El Tiempo", the journalist was shot three times and died while his wife was taking him to the María Inmaculada Hospital in Florencia.

Abad moved to Caquetá in 1992 and worked for five years for the RCN radio station chain as a news director. Later, he worked as the manager and news director of the programme La Voz de la Selva, which was broadcast on the Caracol radio network. Up until his murder, Abad had been a teacher in the National Open and Distance Learning University's (Universidad Nacional Abierta y a Distancia, UNAD) Social Communications program.

Just one week before his death, Abad told IPYS in a telephone conversation that he wasn't aware of any threats against Leon, who worked for Caracol in Florencia and was killed on 30 November. He considered Leon a friend, and claimed that he had never heard him make mention of any pressure or threats, which led Abad to believe that his colleague's murder had nothing to do with his work as a journalist.

Abad was president of the Print, Radio and Television Workers' Association of Florencia (Asociacion de Trabajadores de Prensa, Radio y Television de Florencia, Asoprer). The association denounced the murder.

Mayor of Florencia Lucrecia Murcia stated that a reward would be offered for anyone who can provide information that helps determine the motives for the crime and capture the perpetrators. "Florencia is a time bomb due to the high rate of contract killings, child prostitution and the settling of scores between paramilitaries and the guerrillas," she commented.

This year, eleven journalists have been murdered in Colombia. The profession continues to be one of the most dangerous activities amidst the country's civil war. "He who is not with me is against me," appears to be the motto of those involved in the armed conflict.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:
  • demanding that a serious investigation be made to determine the real reasons behind the two murders that occurred in Florencia within two weeks
  • calling on them to identify and severely punish the perpetrators

Appeals To

Andrés Pastrana Arango 
President of the Republic
Kra.8 n.7-26 Santa Fe de Bogotá
Fax: +571 286 74 34 / 286 79 37 / 284 21 86

Alfonso Gomez Méndez
Attorney General
(Fax is unavailable)

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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