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Journalist informed of plan to attack her, asks president to intervene to ensure her safety

(RSF/IFEX) - 22 September 2011 - Reporters Without Borders supports the request for investigation that radio journalist Claudia Julieta Duque sent to President Juan Manuel Santos a week ago after being told about an order to carry out attacks on her. Since then, there has been silence from the authorities and Duque has every reason to be worried.

"While supporting Duque's personal request, we also urge the authorities to take great care, during this period of such important judicial proceedings to protect all journalists who have been DAS targets," Reporters Without Borders said. "We welcome the fact that justice is beginning to be rendered in these cases that involved extremely serious violations of human rights and civil liberties. We are also aware that the judicial proceeding are fraught with risks for those who suffered the violations and who, at the same time, covered them as reporters."

Duque, who works for Radio Nizkor, is one of the journalists who was directly targeted by the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) during former president Alvaro Uribe's two terms in office (2002-2010) for criticizing his "democratic security" policy, which was put in place to deal with the country's armed groups.

Duque sent her letter on 14 September, the same day that Colombia's supreme court convicted former DAS chief Jorge Noguera of abuse of authority, murder and criminal association (with paramilitary groups) and sentenced him to 25 years in prison and a 20-year ban on holding public office.

Although Noguera was acquitted of the 2003 murders of journalist Zully Codina and parliamentarian Fernando Pisciotti, he and his successors at the head of the DAS and several other senior officials will soon go on trial in connection with another component of the so-called DASgate scandal, involving illegal phone tapping.

The threats against Duque have intensified since she, along with Karen De Young, published a story in "The Washington Post" about the use of US aid for illegal activities by the DAS under the guise of fighting terrorism. Former president Uribe immediately responded to the article, accusing its authors and "The Washington Post"'s Colombia correspondent, Juan Forero, of being in the "pay of the guerrillas," thereby exposing them to even more danger. In two other articles this month for the bimonthly "Un Pasquín", Duque wrote about the alleged links between certain prominent figures and Carlos Castaño, the one-time head of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC).

The target of threats and harassment since 2001, Duque was the beneficiary of a formal protection request which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights addressed to the Colombian government in 2009. She has been under interior ministry police protective surveillance since 2004.

Her investigative coverage of the murders of two journalists, Jaime Garzón Forero in 1999 and Clodomiro Castilla in 2010, has been particularly sensitive and continues to give rise to serious threats against her.

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