Three journalists killed since April

New York, May 14, 2001 — Three Colombian journalists have been killed so far this year, according to CPJ research. At least one of the journalists, Flavio Bedoya, appears to have been targeted for his work.

At around midday on April 27, four unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Bedoya, 52, as he stepped off a bus in the southwestern port city of Tumaco.

Bedoya was a local correspondent for the Bogotá-based Communist Party newspaper Voz, where he had worked for about a year and a half. The murder was widely linked to a series of reports about collusion between security forces and outlawed right-wing paramilitary gangs in southern Nariño Department that Bedoya had published in Voz. [Read CPJ’s May 1 news alert.]

Bedoya had received anonymous death threats shortly before the attack, according to CPJ sources.

Colombia is consistently one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. In 2000, three Colombian journalists were killed because of their work, according to CPJ research. CPJ continues to investigate another four murders from last year, and two more from the last few weeks.

Three days after Bedoya’s murder, on April 30, a former sports reporter named Carlos Alberto Trespalacios Yalí was killed in the northwestern city of Medellín.

Trespalacios was shot three times in the head, according to Medellín police. The police were unable to say how many gunmen took part in the attack or what caliber pistol had been used.

A recent police report detailing alleged death threats against Trespalacios was found in the dead man’s pocket. Trespalacios had filed the report at a police station in Envigado, another neighborhood of Medellín. Police declined to release the contents of the report, however.

At the time of his death, Trespalacios was working as chief information officer for Medellín City Hall’s Sports and Recreation Institute. He had previously been a sports reporter for local radio stations and for the regional TV station Teleantioquia. Trespalacios had also done public relations work for Medellín mayor Luis Pérez Gutiérrez, according to the Bogotá daily El Tiempo.

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Yesid Marulanda Romero, 31, a sports reporter with the news program “Noticiero del Pacífico,” was murdered in the city of Cali, in the southwestern Valle del Cauca Department.

At around 11:30 a.m., unidentified gunmen in a white sports utility vehicle fired six shots at the journalist’s head as he was leaving Santiago de Cali University, where he was studying law. Marulanda had never reported any threats and his work was not considered controversial, according to local press reports. The police did not comment on possible motives for the murder.

For the past 10 years, Marulanda had worked as a sports reporter for the regional television channel Telepacífico, which broadcasts “Noticiero del Pacífico.” He had also covered sports for the CM& television station and for the Todelar radio network.

CPJ continues to investigate whether Trespalacios and Marulanda were killed because of their work as journalists.