Bogotá, Colombia, July 3, 2012–Ecuadoran photographer Byron Baldeón was shot dead Sunday in front of his home in El Triunfo, about 60 kilometers (100 miles) north of the city of Guayaquil. The photographer had become a witness in a criminal case involving alleged police corruption, according to news reports.
Baldeón, 31, a professional freelancer, was shot numerous times at close range by two gunmen on a motorcycle, according to news reports. Coroner Robert Burbano, who performed the autopsy, told reporters that he counted 17 bullet entry and exit wounds.
In May, Baldeón photographed an empty container truck abandoned in El Triunfo from which 400 televisions had been stolen. His images were published by the Guayaquil daily Extra, Peter Aguirre, editor for the newspaper, told CPJ.
Five men, including three active-duty police officers, were arrested for the crime shortly afterwards. Baldeón had been subpoenaed by prosecutors and had twice testified in the case, according to news reports. Ivonne Nuñez, the judge presiding over the case, told TV network Teleamazonas, “He was always very sincere, always ready to collaborate.”
Aguirre said the photos of the truck were the only images by Baldeón that Extra had published.
“Byron Baldeón’s coverage of alleged police corruption highlights the vital importance of local journalism and the potentially grave risks that come with it,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s New York-based senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We send our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues, and we call on Ecuadoran authorities to fully investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice.”
El Triunfo is part of Guayas province which, according to news reports, has Ecuador’s highest homicide rate. However, violence against journalists is rare in Ecuador. Since CPJ began keeping records in 1992, it has documented only one case of a journalist clearly killed for his work: Julio Augusto García Romero died in 2005 after inhaling tear gas at a demonstration in Quito.
- For more analysis and data on Ecuador, see CPJ’s Ecuador page here.