Investigative journalist threatened in Colombia

Mary Luz Avendaño, a reporter for the Colombian daily El Espectador, was threatened on June 22, 2011, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews. Avendaño, the newspaper’s correspondent in the city of Medellín, had recently written two investigative pieces concerning narcotraffickers and their connections with the local police. 

On May 18, 2011, El Espectador published the journalist’s story on “polibandas,” a name that refers to the links between members of the local police and criminal bands involved in narcotrafficking. A few weeks later, on June 10, 2011, the newspaper published her story “¿Nuevo capo en Medellín?” (New chief in Medellín?), which detailed the recent rise of Henry de Jesús López, a high-ranking drug cartel figure who goes by the name of “Mi Sangre” (My Blood). Avendaño told CPJ that the latter story was supposed to be published without a byline, but due to an editing error the print edition came out with her name attached to the story. Soon after the publication of the piece, she told CPJ, her sources, police, and government officials told her she was in great danger.

On June 22, 2011, the press reported, one of Avendaño’s contacts received a call in which an unidentified person told him, “Tell your friend the journalist Mary Luz to stop publishing stupid things, or does she want to win the jackpot?” Avendaño has since been granted protection by the local government.