Bogotá, Colombia, May 12, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is extremely concerned about two Colombian journalists who have fled their homes. One fled after being shot, and the other left after receiving death threats. Both men reported frequently on the country’s 40-year-old civil war, which pits leftist guerrillas against the government and right-wing paramilitary militias.
On Tuesday, May 6, gunmen riding tandem on a motorcycle shot journalist José Iván Aguilar Castañeda while he was driving to Calor Estéreo radio, where he hosts his weekday morning program “Noticias Ya” (News Now) in the city of Villavicencio, Meta Department, the journalist told CPJ.
Although one bullet grazed him and another pierced his upper chest, Aguilar was not seriously injured and was released from the hospital the following day. A third bullet struck his car.
Aguilar, 39, left for the capital, Bogotá, on Wednesday, May 7, with his wife and three children. He is seeking help through the government’s protection program for journalists, which provides money and bodyguards to threatened journalists.
Aguilar spoke frequently about Colombia’s civil conflict but said he had received no previous threats and does not know who was behind the attack. Aguilar also works as a correspondent for “Noticias Uno” (News One) on the Bogotá television station Canal Uno (Channel One).
Authorities are investigating the shooting but have made no arrests, said Meta police commander Col. José Arnulfo Oliveros.
Killed journalist’s colleague receives threats
On Sunday, May 4, journalist Diógenes Cadena Castellanos, who covers judicial issues for Huila Estéreo radio in Neiva, Huila Department, fled for Bogotá after unidentified men called him twice at his home and threatened to kill him.
Cadena, 36, received the first threat on Tuesday, April 29, one day after his colleague Guillermo Bravo Vega was shot dead inside his house in Neiva. The caller left a message on Cadena’s answering machine warning him that he would be killed unless he left Neiva in three days.
Four-days later, on May 3, Cadena received another call at his home, where he lives with his mother and siblings, from an unidentified man who said his time was up and warned that he was “finished.” Cadena left the town the next day and said officials at the government protection program have promised him financial assistance for four weeks.
Cadena said he doesn’t know who is threatening him. Cadena worked with Guillermo Bravo for nearly two years at the regional television station Alpevisión. However, Cadena said he doesn’t know if the threats he received are related to his colleague’s murder.
Bravo directed a morning program at the station called “Hechos y cifras” (Facts and Figures) and frequently accused municipal and state government officials of mishandling public monies. Authorities are investigating reports that a professional assassin hired by public officials killed Bravo.