Journalist killed by gunmen on motorcycles

New York, May 1, 2001 — Four unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Colombian journalist Flavio Bedoya as he stepped off a bus around midday April 27 in the southwestern port city of Tumaco, police and colleagues said.

Bedoya, 52, was a regional correspondent for the Bogotá-based Communist Party newspaper Voz. He had worked as Voz correspondent for about a year and a half, according to Álvaro Angarita, one of the weekly’s senior correspondents in Bogotá.

Angarita said he believed the murder was linked to a series of highly critical reports Bedoya had published in Voz since the start of April about collusion in southern Nariño Department between the security forces and outlaw right-wing paramilitary gangs. In the course of his reporting, Bedoya had interviewed a local commander of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who claimed to have defended inhabitants of the village of Llorente against a paramilitary incursion.

“Those reports aggravated the number of threats against Flavio. The threats came from paramilitary groups,” Angarita told CPJ. It remains unclear which paramilitary group threatened Bedoya, but units of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are believed to be active around Llorente. In addition to paramilitary gangs, both the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) operate in Nariño.

Police confirmed the killing but gave no further details.

Bedoya was shot by four gunmen on two motorcycles just outside the municipal culture center (casa de cultura), which is a short distance from the local police station, according to Angarita. Southwest Colombia, especially Nariño and neighboring Cauca departments, have seen an upsurge of paramilitary attacks in the last two months.

Colombia’s small Communist Party is seen as being politically close to the FARC but has traditionally advocated social change through the ballot box and through grassroots mobilization, rather than armed revolution.

Bedoya is the first Colombian journalist killed in 2001. Last year, three Colombian journalists were killed in reprisal for their work.