Efraín Varela Noriega

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Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

One Province Illustrates Colombia's Struggle with Impunity

The inability to solve journalist murders in Arauca feeds an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation for the media there. By John Otis

Gen. Rodolfo Palomino, Colombian police chief, writes a message for a campaign supporting FARC demobilization in Tame, Arauca province, on September 18, 2013. (Reuters/Jose Miguel Gomez)
Gen. Rodolfo Palomino, Colombian police chief, writes a message for a campaign supporting FARC demobilization in Tame, Arauca province, on September 18, 2013. (Reuters/Jose Miguel Gomez)

Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press 2007: Colombia

COLOMBIA

The national press played a crucial role in exposing illegal paramilitary activities and links between paramilitary leaders and leading politicians. Provincial journalists, working in areas where paramilitaries and other illegal armed groups were prevalent, faced many challenges in trying to report this and other sensitive stories. Paramilitary fighters were behind the majority of documented press freedom violations, CPJ research showed.

Case   |   Colombia

COLOMBIA: Paramilitary fighter convicted for 2002 murder of local journalist


 UPDATE 


FEBRUARY 27, 2007

Oriiginally posted: July 1, 2002

Efraín Varela Noriega, Radio Meridiano-70
KILLED
February 27, 2007 12:00 PM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press 2002: Colombia

Colombia's civil conflict once again took a brutal toll on the country's press, with journalists threatened, attacked, kidnapped, and murdered. At least three journalists were killed for their work in 2002, and CPJ continues to investigate the slayings of five others whose deaths may have been related to their reporting. At year's end, Colombia's overburdened justice system appeared far from solving any of these murders, perpetuating a climate of impunity that leaves the media wide open to attacks.

Alerts   |   Colombia

Another fears for his life

Bogotá, Colombia, March 18, 2003—Gunmen shot and killed a radio news host early this morning in a volatile northeastern region of the country. The journalist, who had been threatened previously by members of a right-wing paramilitary army, was also a free-lance reporter for Colombia's most widely read daily.

Luis Eduardo Alfonso Parada, 33, was shot to death at 4:55 a.m. by two gunmen in the town of Arauca, near the Venezuelan border, while he tried to enter his office at Radio Meridiano-70. Two men were waiting for him there and fled on a motorcycle after the attack, said an Arauca Department police spokesperson.
March 18, 2003 12:00 PM ET

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  |   Colombia

Luis Eduardo Alfonso Parada


Alfonso, a 33-year-old radio news host, was shot to death at 4:55 a.m. by two gunmen in the town of Arauca, near the Venezuelan border, while he tried to enter his office at Radio Meridiano-70. Two men were waiting for him there and fled on a motorcycle after the attack, said an Arauca Department police spokesperson.

The journalist, who had been threatened previously by members of a right-wing paramilitary army, was also a freelance reporter for Colombia's most widely read daily, El Tiempo.

In June 2002, presumed paramilitary gunmen shot and killed the owner of Radio Meridiano-70, Efraín Varela Noriega. Varela had alerted listeners to the presence of paramilitary fighters in the region days before he was assassinated.

Alfonso co-hosted several news shows broadcast during the day. Since October, he had been covering armed conflict in Arauca Department as a freelance reporter for El Tiempo, said Álvaro Sierra, an editor at the daily. The conflict, which pits leftist rebels against rival paramilitary combatants and the government, is almost 40 years old.

Alfonso lambasted all sides of the conflict but was particularly critical of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), said Miguel Ángel Rojas, who worked with Alfonso at Radio Meridiano-70. Rojas said Alfonso frequently reported in great detail on paramilitary activity in the region. "He didn't hold back at all," said Rojas. "I think that's what compromised him."

Fearing for his life, Alfonso fled for the capital, Bogotá, soon after Varela was killed, said Jorge Enrique Meléndez, an El Tiempo reporter and a friend of Alfonso's who spoke to him hours before he was killed.

In Bogotá, Alfonso received about US$320 from a government protection program for journalists to help support him while he sought refuge. Alfonso returned to Arauca six weeks later.

In November 2002, Alfonso's name was one of about 100 that appeared on a list distributed in the town of Arauca by paramilitary fighters, who threatened to kill the people on the list unless they "reformed," said Meléndez. In the weeks before his death, however, Alfonso had told friends and colleagues that he no longer feared for his life.

In December 2009, Colombian prosecutors ordered the preventative detention of a paramilitary commander, Jose Ruben Pena Tobon, in connection with the slaying. Pena was sentenced to an eight-year term in 2012 on an unrelated charges.

March 18, 2003 12:00 AM ET

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Alerts   |   Colombia

Paramilitaries suspected in killing of radio station owner


Bogotá, July 1, 2002—The owner of a radio station, who recently had alerted the public to the presence of paramilitary fighters in the region, was shot and killed in northeastern Colombia.

Efraín Varela Noriega, owner of Radio Meridiano­70, was driving home from a university graduation in Arauca Department on the afternoon of June 28 when gunmen yanked him from his car and shot him in the face and chest, said Col. Jorge Caro, acting commander of Arauca's police.

July 1, 2002 12:00 PM ET

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