TV journalist murdered

Bogotá, February 5, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is investigating the murder of Oscar Alberto Polanco Herrera, a television journalist who was shot dead yesterday, February 4, in the town of Cartago, Valle del Cauca Department, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Bogotá.

Authorities said that Polanco Herrera, director of the local news program “CNC Noticias” on Cable Unión de Occidente, was shot three times by two unidentified men on motorcycles in his office parking lot at 1 p.m. Police Colonel Jairo Salcedo said authorities do not have information on the gunmen or the possible motives for the killing.

Polanco, 37, broadcast a daily, hour-long local news program. According to Polanco’s friend and colleague Luis Ángel Murcia, a month-and-a-half ago, Polanco changed the format of his show and began using it as a forum to irreverently criticize local officials.

Murcia told CPJ that despite the new format, Polanco’s program maintained a close relationship with the mayor’s office, and that Polanco himself was a personal friend to many local politicians.

“Cartago is an intolerant city with a long history of drug-trafficking and hired killers.” Murcia told CPJ. “Currently this has reduced significantly, but the intolerance makes it easy to create enemies, and most problems are resolved with bullets.”

Polanco was not known to have received any death threats before his death, Murcia said.

Valle del Cauca department Governor Angelino Garzón condemned Polanco’s murder. An award of 5 million pesos (US$1,800) is being offered for any information leading to the capture of Polanco’s killers.