Alleged paramilitary fighters shoot Colombian journalist at home

Two individuals, who identified themselves as members of the far-right paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), shot Colombian journalist Gustavo Adolfo Valencia Ayala inside his home in the eastern city of Popayán on March 16, 2009, according to local news reports. The journalist, who was injured but is in stable condition, said he believes the attack was retaliation for his work.

Two men approached Valencia, Papayán news director for the national radio station Todelar, after the journalist parked his car outside his home around 8:40 p.m., the news reports said. Valencia said the men, who identified themselves as members of the AUC, warned him that they would destroy his home if he didn’t comply. They took Valencia’s national I.D. card and press credentials, his colleague Sonia Godoy told CPJ. When Valencia asked the reason for the attack, his assailants told him they had to talk to their commander before giving him any more information.

The assailants held Valencia, his wife, and children hostage for over an hour, Godoy said. But they did not take anything from the house. After Valencia’s daughter attempted to run away, one of the assailants shot Valencia in the left leg as the journalist tried to stop them from running after his daughter. When the assailants fled, Valencia was taken to local hospital San José de Popayán, according to a report in the national radio station Caracol. On March 26, Godoy said Valencia remained at the hospital though he was in stable condition.

The journalist said he believes the attack was retaliation for his work, though he cannot pinpoint a specific story, Godoy said. Valencia’s news programs report general news from the Popayán area. Valencia and the radio station have never received threats although some listeners have called in harsh commentary following pieces on local politics, according to Godoy.

Local authorities began an immediate investigation, reported Caracol.