Semana editor Calderón escapes shooting unharmed

New York, May 2, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Colombian authorities to fully investigate an attack against editor Ricardo Calderón, whose car was shot at by unidentified gunmen on Wednesday night in the town of Girardot. Calderón was unharmed.

Calderón, 42, head of the investigative unit at the leading newsweekly Semana, was driving his car around 7 p.m. local time when he stopped at a toll booth in Girardot, 83 miles southwest of Bogotá, the capital, according to press reports. The journalist saw two gunmen get out of a vehicle. The assailants called his name and when he responded they shot at the car at least five times, the reports said. Calderón escaped injury by diving into a roadside ditch, The Associated Press said.

Semana‘s top editor, Alejandro Santos, was cited by the magazine as saying Calderón was part of a team of reporters investigating allegedly lavish jail conditions for military officials convicted of grave human rights abuses–a piece published more than two weeks ago. The story revealed how dozens of military officials sentenced to 30 years in jail had been shopping, partying, and making business deals in Bogotá. “These investigations troubled many people,” Santos said, according to Semana.

“The attack on Ricardo Calderón shows that Colombian journalists still face grave danger when reporting on sensitive issues,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Authorities must send the message that such attacks will not be tolerated by conducting a thorough investigation and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

Calderon has worked on other sensitive stories, including a major espionage scandal in which national intelligence officials engaged in unlawful phone tapping, email interception, and surveillance of journalists and political opponents. The scandal led to the dismantling of the national intelligence service, then known as DAS, and the jailing of more than 20 officials.

President Juan Manuel Santos condemned the attack and asked the chief of the national police to lead the investigation, the reports said. Calderón is now under police protection.

With 44 journalists killed for their work since 1992, Colombia has historically been one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, CPJ research shows. CPJ’s Impunity Index, released today, found that over the past few years the country has improved its record as anti-press violence has slowed.