Colombian reporter threatened, forced to flee

New York, February 9, 2006—A Colombian reporter was forced to flee the province of Caquetá after receiving death threats following her published interview with a guerrilla leader, the journalist said this week. Olga Cecilia Vega’s forced departure from the city of Florencia is the third case in 2006 in which a provincial Colombian journalist fled her home because of death threats, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“We condemn this pattern of intimidation against provincial journalists,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We urge Colombian authorities to provide adequate safety guarantees so that journalists can report the news freely and without fear of reprisal.”

Vega told CPJ that the threats stem from an October 2005 interview with guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was published in the Miami-based El Nuevo Herald. In mid-January, Vega said, she received an anonymous call threatening her with death if she did not leave Florencia.

On January 28, two unidentified men arrived at the Hotel Royal Plaza where Vega was living, telling the hotel manager that she should leave Florencia in 48 hours or the hotel would be bombed, the journalist told CPJ. They called her as a guerrilla member, she said.

Vega, who was also working as a press officer for the Caquetá Department of Health, fled her home on February 1. She declined to disclose where she is residing now, citing concerns for her safety.

She has been threatened before in connection with her work. While covering the peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC for RCN Radio, she was the target of two kidnapping attempts in 2001. The next year, she was forced to flee the country briefly.