Bogotá, January 8, 2021 — Colombian authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Andrés Felipe Guevara Henao, determine if he was targeted for his work, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On December 21, 2020, in the western city of Cali, an unidentified assailant shot Guevara four times while he was talking with a friend in front of his home, according to news reports.
Guevara was shot in his chest, stomach, and leg, and was hospitalized following the attack; he died of his wounds on December 23, according to news reports. The journalist’s friend was shot in the buttocks and survived, the reports said.
Guevara, 27, covered crime for the daily newspaper Q’hubo Cali, according to those reports.
A Cali journalist who knew Guevara told CPJ that the reporter had received numerous threats over the past three years from local gang members, stemming from his coverage of homicides in the Cali area of Mariano Ramos, where Guevara grew up and where he was killed. The journalist requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from criminals.
On January 6, authorities announced that they had arrested a 16-year-old Cali resident who was suspected of perpetrating the killing, according to news reports and a statement shared on Twitter by Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa.
“Colombian authorities must do everything in their power to conduct a credible investigation into the killing of journalist Andrés Felipe Guevara, determine whether he was killed for his work, and prosecute those responsible,” said CPJ South and Central America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Considering Guevara’s reporting on gang-related violence and previous threats related to that reporting, it is essential that authorities seriously consider the hypothesis that he was targeted for his work.”
The Cali journalist who knew Guevara told CPJ that someone fired three shots at Guevara’s home in 2017 after he published a report linking members of the “Los Pitbull” gang in Mariano Ramos to two killings.
“After I reported on this, they [the gang members] said I was a snitch and that they were going to kill me,” Guevara told a friend in an August 2020 voicemail, a transcript of which was published by the Bogotá newsmagazine Semana. “They threatened me. They were hitmen so I had to leave.”
Guevara filed a criminal complaint about the 2017 shooting with the attorney general’s office, and moved to the nearby town of Jamundí out of fear for his safety, the journalist told CPJ, adding that Guevara returned to Mariano Ramos in 2020 due to financial problems, and lived with family members.
In the voicemail, Guevara said he had obtained a bullet-resistant vest for his protection. He was not wearing it when he was shot and killed, according to the journalist who spoke with CPJ.
The day after Guevara was shot, Manuel Antonio Vásquez, then Cali’s police chief, issued a statement alleging that the attack was unrelated to Guevara’s work as a journalist, but did not state how he reached that conclusion.
His statement prompted the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom to issue a statement demanding that authorities carry out a serious investigation focusing on whether Guevara was killed due to his reporting on gang-related violence.
CPJ called the Cali police and the office of Attorney General Barbosa for comment, but no one answered or replied to voicemails left by CPJ.