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People transport motorcycles on a boat crossing the Magdalena river in Santa Cruz de Mompox, Colombia, in September 2017. Attackers set fire to a boat that a journalist in Simití used to report on remote communities along the river. (AFP/Luis Acosta)

Attackers burn boat journalist uses to report in Colombia’s remote regions

November 8, 2019 6:42 PM ET

Bogotá, November 8, 2019—Colombian authorities should immediately investigate an arson attack against a journalist in northern Colombia and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

David Torres, the founder and reporter of El Original, a news website with a monthly print edition, told CPJ that he went into hiding after arsonists burned his boat and motor on November 6. Torres said that friends had warned him of rumors that people intended to burn the boat after he reported on alleged political corruption in Simití and the nearby towns of San Pablo and Cantagallo ahead of the October 27 mayoral election.

“Colombian authorities should thoroughly investigate the arson attack that destroyed David Torres’ property, bring those responsible to justice, and ensure the journalist’s safety” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Burning a boat that allows a journalist to report on and bring vital news to remote communities is an alarmingly extreme form of censorship.”

Torres said that after receiving the warnings, he hid the boat for several days but brought it back to Simití after the election and parked it in his backyard, where it was later burned.

The journalist told CPJ that he used the boat and 40-horsepower outboard motor, worth about US$10,000, to make reporting trips from his home in the town of Simití to communities along the Magdalena River, where there are few roads, and to distribute copies of his paper.

Torres said that he has temporarily fled Simití for his safety. The Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom called on the Colombian government’s National Protection Unit to evaluate the risks to Torres and to take measures to guarantee his safety.

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