Radio station owner gunned down in Colombia

Bogotá, February 18, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder on Saturday of a Colombian radio station owner and calls on authorities to identify the motive and ensure the perpetrators are held to account. Luis Antonio Peralta Cuéllar was a journalist and an aspiring politician who often broadcast reports criticizing political corruption in the southern Colombian town of Doncello.

“Luis Antonio Peralta Cuéllar must not be added to the long list of journalists who have been murdered with impunity in Colombia,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director, from New York. “Authorities must investigate all possible motives, including Peralta’s journalism and any possible political involvement in the crime, and bring those responsible to justice.”

Peralta, 63, owner and director of Linda Stereo radio station in Doncello, was shot three times in the head by two gunmen who entered his home around 6 p.m., Geovanny Canacué, a Linda Stereo reporter, told CPJ. Peralta’s wife was shot in the arm, but was in stable condition at a local hospital, Canacué said. The attack took place at Peralta’s house, which doubled as the radio station headquarters.

Peralta founded Linda Stereo in 1998 and often broadcast critical editorials and news reports during a segment called “Palabras del Director” (Words from the Director). Canacué said that Peralta often used the segment to denounce government corruption in Doncello and nearby towns. He had recently reported on alleged cost overruns in the purchase of garbage trucks in Doncello, according to the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).

Eight days before he was killed, Peralta told Canacué that he had received threats, but that he did not want to discuss them over the phone. The two men had planned to meet to discuss the details, Canacué said.

Col. William Alberto Boyacá, commander of the police in Caquetá state, announced a monetary reward for information leading to the capture of the gunmen. So far, he said, there have been no arrests.

Peralta was killed one day after he announced he would run in the October election for mayor of Doncello, a town in southern Caquetá state which has long been a stronghold of Marxist guerrillas.

“I think his death may have been related to the fact that he was permanently denouncing corrupt politicians and then wanted to run for mayor,” José Ever Perdomo, a journalist who had worked with Peralta, told La Nación, a daily published in the nearby city of Neiva.

Doncello Mayor Fernando Troncoso did not return CPJ’s calls requesting comment.

In August 2010, police deactivated a homemade bomb made with more than 50 pounds of explosives that they discovered near Linda Stereo, according to news reports. Journalists reporting on sensitive issues in Colombia, such as the country’s decades-long conflict, crime, and corruption, have faced renewed violence and intimidation in recent years, according to CPJ research.

  • For more data and analysis on Colombia, visit CPJ’s Colombia page here.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The first and second paragraph of this alert have been corrected to reflect the spelling of Luis Antonio Peralta Cuéllar’s name.]