Herbin Hoyos Death threat for journalist given three days to leave the country

Herbin Hoyos

New York, July 5, 2006 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by a death threat against a Colombian journalist who interviewed accused drug traffickers awaiting extradition to the United States.

Prominent radio journalist Herbin Hoyos Medina told CPJ he received an e-mail warning July 1 to leave Colombia within three days or face “consequences without precedent for your children and family.” Hoyos is still in Colombia but said he was considering leaving.

“We are troubled by this threat against Herbin Hoyos,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.   “The authorities should quickly look into it, and find those responsible.”

Hoyos fled Colombia for short periods between 1998 and 2000 after receiving threats from guerrilla groups for reporting on kidnappings. He has had a permanent police bodyguard since 2002.

During his weekly program on Caracol Radio in Bogotá on July 1, Hoyos aired   interviews with inmates at Cómbita maximum security prison in central Boyacá province who are awaiting extradition to the United States on drug charges.

That night a threatening message was posted on his Web page, (lasvocesdelsecuestro.com). The message, signed by an unknown group called “Citizens’ Action and Justice Front for Freedom and Democracy,” accused Hoyos of protecting criminals that have damaged the country’s image. Hoyos reported the threat to the Attorney General’s Office.

According to local press reports, many of the people interviewed by Hoyos said that they were not prominent drug traffickers, and accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Colombian authorities of setting them up.

So far this year, CPJ has documented five cases of Colombian journalists forced to flee their homes because of threats and intimidation. Although journalists in Bogotá and other large urban centers work more freely than their colleagues do in the country’s interior do, they also face pressure and intimidation, CPJ research shows.