Bogotá, July 3, 2001 — Colombian radio reporter Pablo Emilio Parra Castañeda was murdered with two shots to the head in central Tolima Department on June 27, according to local press reports.
Parra, 50, was the founder and head of the community radio station Planadas Cultural Estéreo in the town of Planadas. He was also a regular contributor to print and radio media in the city of Neiva, capital of Huila Department, and Ibagué, the capital of Tolima Department.
One of his radio programs was a long-distance learning project that involved dictating high school lessons via radio for students who either lived in isolated rural areas or were unable to attend formal classes because of their jobs.
For the last four years, Parra had also served as president of the local branch of the Colombian Red Cross.
Parra’s corpse was found on the side of a rural road between the town of Planadas and the nearby village of Gaitania, in an area rife with illicit plantations of opium poppy used in the production of heroin. The region is controlled by the 21st Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), under the command of two FARC leaders known as “Jerónimo” and “Pablo Catatumbo.”
“We mourn the loss of our colleague Pablo Emilio Parra Castañeda,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “CPJ urges all sides in Colombia’s civil war to avoid similar tragedies in future by respecting the neutral status of journalists.”
Army, relative blame FARC
“He was dragged out of his home by FARC militia men and assassinated,” according to a Colombian Army communiqué. The army claimed that a sign reading “for stool pigeon and double-dealer” had been found pinned to Parra’s body.
Parra’s son Pablo Fernando Parra Ruiz confirmed the death of his father to the regional newspaper Tolima Siete Días, part of the El Tiempo family. Pablo Fernando told CPJ that he blamed the FARC for the murder.
It is unclear whether Parra’s death was related to his work as a journalist. CPJ will continue to investigate the murder and try to determine the motive.
According to CPJ research, four Colombian journalists have been killed since January in circumstances possibly related to their work. Flavio Bedoya, regional correspondent for the Communist Party newspaper Voz, was killed on April 27 in the southwestern port city of Tumaco. Colleagues linked the murder to a series of highly critical reports that Bedoya had published about collusion between local security forces and right-wing paramilitary gangs.
CPJ continues to investigate the murders of two Colombian sports reporters: Carlos Alberto Trespalacios Yalí, killed in Medellín on April 30, and Yesid Marulanda Romero, killed in Cali on May 3.