New York, August 25, 2003— The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns last week’s incident in which a journalist was killed and another one was seriously injured when the vehicle in which they were traveling was fired on at a checkpoint allegedly guarded by rebels near the town of Puerto Caicedo, in southern Colombia.
On Friday, August 22, at about 6:15 p.m., Juan Carlos Benavides Arévalo died after suspected rebels shot at the vehicle when the driver decided to elude a checkpoint. Benavides, 29, hosted the morning radio program “Panorama Informativo” (News Outlook) for the community station Manantial Estéreo, which is run by the Roman Catholic diocese of Putumayo Department, in the town of Sibundoy. Jaime Conrado Juajibioy Cuarán, 24, who worked with Benavides at the station, was seriously injured in the attack and taken to a hospital to receive treatment for his wounds, according to CPJ sources.
According to local press reports, the rebels who shot at the vehicle were members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). However, Putumayo Department, in southern Colombia, is one of the country’s major coca-producing regions, and the FARC, the government, right-wing paramilitary militias, and drug lords are known to control checkpoints in the region.
Benavides and Juajibioy were traveling with a group, including local politicians, from Sibundoy to Puerto Asís, where they had planned to cover a Saturday meeting between Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and regional leaders. At Saturday’s meeting, Uribe said that rebels from the FARC had been trying to attack him during his visit to Puerto Asís, The Associated Press reported.
Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Benavides is the fourth Colombian journalist murdered this year in the line of duty. In the last decade, more than 30 journalists have been killed in Colombia.