TV host shot dead in western Colombia

New York, December 17, 2009—An unidentified gunman shot and killed Colombian journalist Hárold Humberto Rivas Quevedo in the western Valle del Cauca province on the night of December 15. The Committee to Protect journalists today called on Colombian authorities to investigate the killing and do everything in their power to bring all those responsible to justice.

Rivas, 49, host of the political commentary show “Comuna Libre” on local TV station CNC Bugavisión and sports commentator on the local radio station Voces de Occidente, left the CNC Bugavisión offices in Buga shortly after 10 p.m., station manager Javier Gil told CPJ. Minutes later, Rivas arrived at a local funeral home, which he also managed, where he was approached by an individual wearing a dark motorcycle helmet, according to local news reports. The unidentified assailant fired five shots at Rivas’ head before fleeing with a second individual on a motorcycle that was parked outside the funeral home. Rivas died immediately, Gil told CPJ.

On the night of his murder, Rivas had just finished taping a live show. According to the station manager, Rivas was generally critical of civic problems but did not directly criticize particular officials or authorities, nor did he touch on sensitive issues. It was not immediately clear whether he was killed because of his work.

A special team of investigators from the local police began an immediate inquiry, reported the national daily El Tiempo. Gil said investigators had not made any leads public.

“Colombian authorities must promptly and thoroughly investigate the killing of Hárold Humberto Rivas Quevedo,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director. “In a country where self-censorship has become the norm among provincial reporters, authorities must show their commitment to the protection of the local press by bringing all those responsible for Rivas’ death to justice.”

The rate of journalist murders has declined slightly in Colombia, historically one of the world’s deadliest nations for the press, CPJ research has found. The government credits increased security, although CPJ research shows that pervasive self-censorship has made the press less of a target.

In its year-end analysis, published today, CPJ found at least 68 journalists worldwide were killed for their work in 2009, the highest yearly tally ever documented by the organization. One of the year’s victims was Colombian journalist José Everardo Aguilar, 72, a correspondent for Radio Súper in the southern city of Patía, who was shot to death inside his home on April 29. He was known for his harsh criticism of corruption and making links between local politicians and right-wing paramilitaries.