Journalist goes into hidingCPJ urges Interior Ministry to assist him

Bogotá, September 17, 2002—Edgar Buitrago Rico, founder and director of the monthly Revista Valle 2000, today fled the city of Cali in fear of his life after receiving repeated death threats since May.

In response, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today sent a letter to Colombian interior minister Fernando Londoño Hoyos urging him to ensure that the ministry’s Program for the Protection of Journalists and Social Communicators responds to Buitrago’s recent request for assistance to relocate to Bogotá.

Buitrago submitted his request in person on August 21 to the ministry but has received no response.

The latest threat to Buitrago came in late August in a letter sent to the local press and politicians in Cali. It was signed by the Committee for the Rescue of Cali, a group that authorities believe was fabricated by the unidentified individuals responsible for the threats.

The letter accused Buitrago of publishing lies in support of Cali’s mayor, whom the journalist has backed publicly because of the mayor’s alleged stand against corruption. The letter warned that Buitrago and 10 other people would be declared “military targets” unless they left the city immediately.

In May, Buitrago received two death threats by e-mail. Then, in June, armed men mistook the magazine’s advertising salesman for Buitrago, forced him into a vehicle, and threatened to kill him before realizing their mistake and freeing him.

The journalist fled to Bogotá in early August but returned to Cali within three weeks because he ran out of money.

Buitrago launched Revista Valle 2000 in 1998 as a publication dedicated to investigating and denouncing cases of political corruption in Valle Del Cauca. Death threats in recent years have forced four of his volunteer correspondents to resign. Before starting the magazine, Buitrago was subdirector of El Caleño and a reporter for El País.