Radio journalist threatened after reporting on paramilitaries

NOVEMBER 30, 2006
Posted December 19, 2006

José Ponce Obispo, Radio Galeón


Ponce, news director and host of the daily news program “Mi Radioperiódico” on local Radio Galeón, received two death threats after reporting on a feud between two paramilitary groups near the city of Santa Marta, 596 miles (960 kilometers) north of Bogotá.

From November 14 to 16, Ponce reported on a feud between two right-wing paramilitary groups in the nearby national park of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the journalist told CPJ. Both groups are trying to control the area, where there are vast coca-growing fields. Ponce said that he had not sided with either group, but tried to urge authorities to take action in the national park during his three-day reporting on the issue.

In the morning of November 30, two unidentified men came to Ponce’s house in Santa Marta and asked to speak to the journalist. When Ponce’s wife said that he was not at home, the men told her that he talked too much. They warned that they knew where Ponce’s family lived and that if he kept talking on the radio he would have to face the consequences.

Ponce said that he received a telephone call at Radio Galeón 15 minutes later from an unidentified individual who warned the journalist that he would die if he did not stop talking about the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Ponce said that he alerted authorities immediately. Local police are leading an investigation into the threats. Ponce had police protection until December 15, when authorities considered he was no longer in immediate danger.