Bogotá, June 3, 2021 – Ecuadorian authorities should thoroughly investigate the shooting of journalist Calixto Zambrano and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 7:30 p.m. on May 28, two unidentified men on a motorcycle approached Zambrano as he was returning to his home in the western town of El Carmen, and one of the men pulled out a pistol and fired several shots. Two of the shots hit Zambrano as he ran away, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview, and news reports.
Zambrano, who directs a news program for the independent station Radio Eco FM, told CPJ that both shots hit his right thigh, and he underwent surgery at a local hospital. He said that, due to the complex nature of his injuries, doctors were able to remove just one of the two bullets from his thigh and then released him on May 29. He said he did not know when the other bullet could be removed, as doctors told him such an operation could result in paralysis.
“Ecuadorian authorities must thoroughly investigate the attack on journalist Calixto Zambrano and determine whether he was targeted for his work,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Authorities must respond to violence against journalists with the utmost seriousness, and convey the clear message that perpetrators will face justice.”
Zambrano, who has worked as a journalist for 35 years, said he covers a range of issues on his 90-minute nightly news program. He recently reported on corruption allegations involving the remodeling of a local hospital and the management of the town’s bus system, but told CPJ he had no idea why he was targeted in the shooting.
He told CPJ that he received threats from a gang member about 15 years ago, who was later killed, but had not received any threats recently.
CPJ sent a voice message to the police in El Carmen and an email message to the press department of the attorney general’s office in Quito, the capital, seeking comment about the attack, but did not immediately receive any responses.
“I love my profession and I do it with a lot of enthusiasm, but I am not sure if I am going to return to the profession,” Zambrano, who is now walking with crutches, told CPJ. “For now, I am taking a leave of absence from journalism.”