Man confesses to murdering journalist Authorities doubt admission

Bogotá, April 18, 2002
–A man being held by authorities in Colombia’s capital has confessed to murdering journalist Orlando Sierra, a newspaper editor and columnist who was shot and killed early this year, CPJ has learned.

Luis Fernando Soto told investigators that he shot 42-year-old Sierra, deputy editor of La Patria newspaper, on a whim after passing the journalist on a street and mistaking him for a man who had apparently killed his cousin years ago, said Carolina Sánchez, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office.

But Sánchez said a police videotape casts doubt on Soto’s story.

In the January 30 video footage, taken by a hidden police camera, Soto is seen loitering near the newspaper’s office building for more than two hours before disappearing from view. Sierra was shot moments later while walking to his office from a restaurant where he and his daughter had just had lunch, said Sánchez.

Sierra died in a hospital bed two days after he was shot.

Police arrested Soto, 21, and Luis Arley Ortiz hours after the attack but released Ortiz for lack of evidence.

Seven prominent Colombian newspapers and newsmagazines—lead by Semana newsmagazine—published the results of a joint investigation on March 3 implying that local politicians whom Sierra had frequently accused of corruption may have ordered his murder.

Sánchez, however, said that although authorities continue to investigate the possibility that politicians were involved in the crime, they have found no evidence to support that theory.

In his weekly columns, Sierra also criticized leftist rebels and a right-wing paramilitary group, which the report speculates could have masterminded the murder as well.

Colombia’s two main rebel armies are fighting the paramilitaries and the government in a 38-year civil conflict that kills about 3,500 people every year.