Radio reporter gunned down in Colombia

New York, April 27, 2009–Veteran Colombian radio journalist José Everardo Aguilar, known for his harsh criticism of local corruption, was gunned down inside his home in southwestern Cauca province on Friday night. The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Colombian authorities to thoroughly investigate Aguilar’s killing and bring all those responsible to justice

Around 7:15 p.m. on Friday, an unidentified individual posing as a delivery man entered Aguilar’s home, saying he had a package of photos, according to Ovidio Hoyos, director of the Popayán-based Radio Súper, where Aguilar worked. Once inside, the assailant shot Aguilar three times and then fled. The journalist died at the scene, Hoyos told CPJ.

“The brazen murder of José Everardo Aguilar ends a lull in violence against the press in Colombia,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Authorities must pursue an aggressive and transparent investigation to send a message that they will not stand by as journalists are attacked.”

Aguilar, 72, was a correspondent for Radio Súper in the southern city of Patía. He also hosted a daily news program on the community radio station Bolívar Estéreo, Hoyos said. Aguilar had reported for Radio Súper for 10 years and was known for his harsh criticism of corruption and links between local politicians and right-wing paramilitaries, according to CPJ interviews and local news reports. A 30-year veteran, he had also reported for national Caracol Radio and RCN, Colombian press reports said.

Aguilar’s family said the journalist had received recent threats linked to his journalism, Hoyos told CPJ. Hoyos said Aguilar had not relayed those threats to him.

Col. Luis Joaquín Camacho, commander of the Cauca police, told CPJ that local and national authorities are investigating the killing. Investigators are looking into Aguilar’s work as a possible motive, Camacho said. On Saturday, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez announced a reward for anyone with information on Aguilar’s murder, the Colombian press reported.

In a recent report, “Getting Away with Murder 2009,” CPJ found that the rate of journalist murders had declined slightly in Colombia, historically one of the world’s deadliest nations for the press. The government credits increased security, although CPJ research shows that pervasive self-censorship has made the press less of a target.